Friday, April 25, 2008

Phonathon raises record funds

By Kaylin Martin
Cardinal Staff

The Saint Mary’s University Phonathon raised more than $205,000 in pledges this year, breaking their old record set during the 2000-2001 phonathon year by almost $10,000.

Saint Mary’s Director of Annual Giving and Phonathon Advisor Bob Fisher contributes most of the campaign’s success to his talented student staff.

“I have been truly blessed with great student workers during this phonathon campaign,” said Fisher. “Their leadership and mentorship to the younger students has helped create a great team atmosphere.”

This year’s phonathon team raised more than $35,000 in pledges compared to last year, which Fisher notes as a huge increase.

“We changed a few things about the program from the previous year,” he said. “I think that is part of why we have had such a successful campaign this year.”

One of the changes made was the calling strategy, or how the callers ask for the gift. Fisher wanted to give the student callers a chance to personalize the script by writing their own.

There are certain things that still must be stated in the scripts, but “they can put their own style into the call,” said Fisher. “It adds a personal touch.”

The phonathon helps raise money for the Saint Mary’s Annual Fund, money that the university can allocate to wherever the greatest need is, usually towards financial aid and unrestricted scholarship support. However, the phonathon program also benefits the student callers.

“It gives students a great opportunity to connect and network with alumni,” said Fisher. “The students can develop great business, communication, networking and fundraising skills that will be very beneficial to them as they enter the professional world.”

Senior phonathon worker Chris Kellen feels the same way.

“I am more comfortable than ever speaking with people I have never met, and I know that will help me as a senior about to graduate,” said Kellen. “I’m going to be meeting new people everyday and put the skills I learned in phonathon to use.”

The student phonathon was started by the Office of Development and Alumni Relations in 1987 as a way to touch base with alumni and parents and to give them an opportunity to support the university. The phonathon currently employs about 30 student workers.

“It wasn’t always that big,” said Fisher. “About ten years ago, the phonathon had about 10 student employees, but as the alumni base has grown so has the phonathon staff.”

“Basically, the growth of the program has followed the growth of the development efforts of the entire university,” said Fisher.

The growing program also contacts alumni and parents of current students to update records like home addresses, email addresses and other business information and to inform the alumni and parents on news about Saint Mary’s.

“We work hard,” said senior phonathon worker Abby Rosenthal, “but we all get along great. That’s why I think it’s been such a successful year.”

Fisher enjoys seeing the students gain a great pride about their future alma mater by working the phonathon. “I am proud of what these students and future alumni are doing for Saint Mary’s,” he said.

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