College Fundraising Secrets
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Politics and Activism

College Fundraising Secrets

Honestly, just answer the phone.

25
College Fundraising Secrets
starpoundtech

When I first told my sister about my on-campus job, she was a little shocked. Calling people and asking for money? Why would anyone ever choose to do that? Especially these days, when hardly anyone uses the phone for calling and many of us have at least a little bit of phone-anxiety. The first secret is this: It helps a lot to be paid to talk to people.

But, honestly, that’s not the whole story.

Here, we call them Tech Callers. Basically, a bunch of students, some on work-study and some not, sit in cubicles and wear headsets while the computer system dials the phone numbers on file. It’s all on the computer: the address, the phone number and a bit of info about the alum’s major and clubs so we have something to talk about. I think this takes away a lot of the anxiety — we don’t have to punch in the number and hit go, we just sit and let the computer do that work. Then we listen to the answering machine. We click through the system so the computer knows it was an answering machine. And then the computer calls the next number, probably another answering machine. It’s pretty repetitive, but it’s all right. And sometimes people actually pick up the phone and want to talk about their work or their experience at school, and that can even be fun.

Some of the best calls are when I ask for advice. Since I’m a freshman, it’s easy to say, "Hey, what’s something I should do while I’m here? I have three years left!" Sometimes they’ll recommend favorite professors, and other times they’ll tell stories of pranks or questionable decisions. The number of people who have walked across the Charles River in the dead of winter, trusting that the ice was thick enough for the weight of a couple of college students, is honestly a little worrying. Some of the older alumni (since we call people who have been away for up to 50 years) have told stories of playing computer games coded on punch cards at two in the morning, when the room-sized machines weren’t being used for research.

Inevitably, not everyone is so kind, though. Usually when people don’t want to talk, they’ll either ignore the call or hang up before I have a chance to say hello. But one call that sticks out in my mind is the time an older man told me, “I have a Ph.D., I know how to write a check!” before he requested to be taken off the calling list. Other people have been caught in unfortunate situations, like being fired or recently out of surgery. Sometimes people call the phone numbers of relatives only to find that the alum has passed away. You might say there’s a learning curve to dealing with these situations. We do our best to be considerate, and of rude calls — you can’t take them personally.

Since you’ve made it this far, I’ll let you in on the best of the secrets: how to handle these calls when you’re getting them. If you’re in college, you’ll get them once you graduate. If you graduated recently and hate hearing the phone ring so often, I’ve got you. Every time it goes to an answering machine, the number goes right back into the system (we call them “calling pools”) to be called again within the next few days. If you pick up and immediately hang up, it’s the same thing. The best thing you can do is take a minute to talk to the person on the other end of the line. If you do that, then you’ll at least avoid phone calls for the rest of the fund-raising season or fiscal year. Even if you aren’t able to donate or if you want to be taken off the calling list, I can almost guarantee that the person you’ll talk to is some anxious freshman who just wanted a bit of spending money and could use a nice conversation.
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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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