Galway Simon Community, a well-known nonprofit in the Irish city of Galway, decided to take their collaboration to the cloud during the events of 2020—embarking on a technology transformation they’ll keep in place long after the pandemic’s end.
Galway Simon supports those experiencing homelessness or at risk of homelessness through prevention work, access to housing, and health and wellbeing services. With multiple sites, the nonprofit runs several initiatives that serve Galway and the surrounding counties, including a medical clinic, a drop-in resource center, residential housing, and charity shops.
Even before the pandemic, Galway Simon had the challenging job of coordinating communication and collaboration between these various sites, as well as their volunteers, their teams, their clients, and others in the community. Once COVID-19 forced them to move some operations virtual, the transition to remote/hybrid work added another layer of complexity.
As a nonprofit, Galway Simon also did not have an IT department and needed a collaboration solution that they could easily learn and manage.
Galway Simon’s Webex journey started when BNP Paribas donated a group of Cisco 8800 phones to the Irish nonprofit.
After receiving the Cisco phones, the Galway Simon team gave Cisco’s Galway office a call and was introduced to Webex Calling and the Webex App. Webex’s potential to keep them connected and enhance their collaboration excited them.
Galway Simon connected with Sheila Greaney and Gerry Keleghan on the Galway and Dublin Cisco teams who volunteered their time to set the nonprofit up with Webex Calling and the Webex App, collaborating with Cisco partner PlanNet21 Communications. As an extra gift, Webex also donated licenses to allow Galway Simon to use the collaboration software.
“I think everybody knows the work and the mission of Galway Simon, so when PlanNet21 Communications had an opportunity to get involved and support Galway Simon we were more than willing to help,” said Ronan Keenan, Enterprise Account Manager at PlanNet21.
“As Cisco Gold Partners, we worked closely with the collaboration teams in Cisco to facilitate Galway Simon’s digital transformation journey,” he said. “Today more than ever before all companies need powerful but simple solutions to accommodate their communication needs… But the solutions need to be secure and that is what we have delivered to Galway Simon Community with Webex Calling.”
Noreen Glennon, Galway Simon’s Volunteer & Office Coordinator and Webex lead, says she’s found the ability to connect from any device and any location a major benefit of the cloud calling solution.
“I really, really love that when I’m out away from my desk, I can take the call on my mobile phone,” Glennon said. “That’s a huge efficiency. You’re not coming back to loads of missed calls and voicemails.”
The team has also seen the impact of the Webex App, including its messaging capabilities.
“We live in our chats,” said Meaghan Hynes, Galway Simon’s Head of Fundraising and Communication. “The chat functionality is excellent on Webex… The internal adoption is going very well, and I love the file sharing of images, videos, documents. They’re there, they’re recorded, and everyone can view rather than connecting to the server or downloading a file. That’s been really helpful.”
Hynes also highlighted how the team could express themselves more fully with fun playful elements like GIFs and emojis. “It’s a bit more fun as well, which is good because in short texts sometimes the tone can get a little bit lost.”
Webex’s ability to facilitate quick, seamless communication proved beneficial for bringing multiple teams together to organize their major fundraising event Sleep Out for Simon. On October 1, Galway Simon invited people from all over Galway and the surrounding counties to give up their beds and sleep outdoors for a night, showing solidarity with those who haven’t got a place to call home. The event also sought to raise awareness and funds to support those facing homelessness.
“It’s one of our biggest campaigns of the year, and there’s a lot involved in that from a marketing communications and advocacy perspective,” Hynes said. “Bringing in teams and communicating effectively and quickly when we’re hitting hard deadlines for press ads, radio ads, and PR is so important. Webex quickens things up particularly when you have half the team working remotely.”
In addition to empowering their hybrid teams and facilitating efficient communication, messaging via Webex has also helped provide a seamless way to collaborate and a welcome alternative to combat email fatigue: “I see Webex as much more advantageous than using email because everyone’s got email burnout,” Glennon said, emphasizing the benefits of being able to send quick messages to team members.
“Also, I can see it being really useful if a number of departments have to collaborate,” Glennon said. She also noted that the ability to create spaces within Webex Messaging for individual or group collaboration has made for seamless, efficient communication. The team can easily refer back to documents that have been shared or issues that have already been addressed so they’re not wasting time repeating themselves or reinventing the wheel.
The Galway Simon team knows that they’ve only scratched the surface of what they can achieve with Webex and have several ideas for how they might leverage the tool going forward.
They hope to livestream future Sleep Out for Simon events and engage participants via Q&A, live polling, and other conversations through Webex. The Webex livestream would allow participants from all involved counties—Galway, Mayo, and Roscommon—to connect and experience the event together.
Additionally, Galway Simon sees further opportunities to reach their community virtually via Webex. For example, they plan to keep their community choir going virtually with Webex. The choir brings together Galway Simon staff, volunteers, and clients, and has proved hugely beneficial for the clients they serve, Glennon said.
Hynes also plans to use Webex for their Youth Advocacy program which seeks to educate students about the causes of homelessness and how they can join Galway Simon in solving this ongoing problem. As part of this program, Galway Simon team members give talks to schools, colleges, and youth groups across Galway, Mayo, and Roscommon. Webex’s interactive video conferencing features can help them scale their reach with engaging virtual presentations, cutting down on travel time and empowering them to reach more schools and communities.
“We really want to use Webex to deliver these talks remotely as we grow our outreach,” Hynes said. “I really love the idea that we can kick off a session or event with a Q&A or a quiz about their understanding of homelessness, and then at the very end do it again and compare results and get everyone engaging on that.”
The Galway Simon team has also been pleased by how intuitive the Webex platform is to use and manage.
“The fact that we have the ability to be able to act on it without having to have that big IT department within our organization is a major plus for us,” Hynes said.
Learn more about how Webex can help your nonprofit or small business and start your free trial today. To explore Galway Simon Community’s work further and hear how you can get involved, visit their website.