When they’re not attending class, studying or taking part in extracurricular sports and activities, 15 Maryville University students work from a phone bank on campus. Shifts of students make thousands of phone calls on Monday through Thursday evenings to keep the University in touch with its alumni and to ask for donations to support the school.
“They’re really the front line of the development office. They make the contact, stay in touch with alumni,” says Development Director Amy Rauscher. “The calls are not just about asking for donations. We want to know from alumni about what’s going on in their lives, with their families, their jobs, promotions, further education,” she explains.
Rauscher carefully interviews the students who communicate with alumni, first with a phone interview, then in person. They undergo training on how to best answer questions alumni may have. While they work, students are provided snacks and cold sodas, and occasionally take part in friendly competitions to see who can bring in the most pledges. “They enjoy the calls. They do enjoy them more when they get a pledge,” Rauscher says.
Maggie Brown, 19, of Effingham, Ill., confirms that’s true. In a night where she may make 100 calls, getting alumni donations provides a boost. “Getting pledges is a brightener for the evening,” she says. Brown is a first-year student in a five-year master’s of occupational therapy program. Her mother Laura (Hakman, ‘88) Brown attended Maryville. Maggie Brown works six hours a week making money to help her parents pay for her tuition.
She says it’s a great way to meet other students she otherwise might not have known. “I love the people I work with,” Brown says. “As a freshman, I didn’t know many people, and now I do,” she says.
Senior Tim Lyons, 23, of Overland Park, Kan., says the experience working the phone bank gives him real-life experience that ties into his marketing education. “I like cold-calling people, and getting used to that,” he says. “I feel comfortable talking to anybody.” The students who make the phone calls say they try to strike a balance between reaching people and calling them at a time they may be busy. Lyons asks alumni to remember: “We’re people, too! We’re just students trying to help the University.”
Another student, senior Taylor Bell, 22, of Louisiana, Mo., says she knows first-hand that there are benefits to making the phone calls and talking to alumni. The senior studying music therapy and psychology, says, “It’s super rewarding when alumni want to give back to the place that helped them get to where they are.”
Rauscher says the calls make a big difference in reaching fundraising goals. “We are trying to surpass last year’s alumni participation with an all-time-high of 14 percent. We’re currently at 9 percent, more than halfway to our goal. This means we need about 800 more alumni to step up and make a gift of any amount, before our fiscal year ends on May 31.”