For several years there has been interest in integrating a virtual call centre or distributed phone bank capacity into CiviCRM. Rob Thorne did a proof of concept back in March 2007 tha was used a bit by a political party (http://cvdemo.torenware.com/). There has been a resugence of interest in recent months and weeks, with over 2 dozen posts and 2300 page views on a single forum thread.
I have a client who may be able to contribute significant funds for development, but other organizations are needed in order to fund to the level required for the core team to take this on. Lobo and Dave Greenberg are both encouraging community members to come forward, and indicating that this is a feature they would like to see in core and which they could build quite quickly given v 2.1 is already in code freeze.
Why is a CiviPhonebank a good extension to CiviCRM? Phoning is a key way that NPO's and NGO's advocate for their goals and mobilize their activists. Getting volunteer (or paid) constituents to contact other constituents is a core activity of many campaigns and fundraising efforts. While online outreach is inexpensive, phoning is a higher - touch mode of communication that yields significantly higher responses.
Why would a campaign be interested in this? CiviPhonebank allows a campaign to strategically reallocate volunteer resources away from unneeded areas towards high priority, swing areas. Some ridings or districts may be completely in the bag for one side or the other, and their volunteers can make more of a difference if they help out in swing districts or ridings that are still up for grabs. Investing a bit in software can more than pay for itself in campaign resources provided by volunteers.
So: are you with an organization that has been wanting to try this? Or do you have a client that has wanted this capacity to leverage their volunteers but been unable to pay for its development themselves? Now is a good time to come together and help to make this happen.
I've recently updated a specification of what CiviPhonebank should do. It was great realizing how much the work over the years on things like custom fields, custom profiles, and current community work on importing large datasets using standard datasources has made this a more feasible and more sophisticated, and easier to build component for CiviCRM.
Please review your organization's needs and budget and consider working with other to spec out and help pay for this important new component of CiviCRM.
Joe Murray, PhD