By Caden Wilson
Every year, the Alma College advancement office hosts an annual fundraising phonathon, during which current students are hired and trained to call and talk with alumni and donors to the college.
“It allows us to stay in contact with our alumni and friends and gives them an opportunity to support the college,” says Brent Neubecker, director of annual giving. “The annual fund supports the operating budget of the college.”
According to Neubecker, the advancement office looks to hire forty students who will be trained to operate phone lines and converse with alumni and other donors to the college. Additionally, the phonathon will also ensure that the college maintains accurate contact information with alumni.
Money raised during the event will go to the Annual Fund which pays for student aid, scholarships, necessities for campus organizations, and venture grants. The advancement office’s goal is to raise $1.45 million by June 30, 2018.
Although calling alumni may seem daunting, Neubecker stated that the students the office hires usually perform very well.
“Many of our students are nervous the first few times they call but we have a very good training program and once they make a few calls our students do very well,” he said.
For many of the students who have operated phone lines in the past, the event has been very beneficial. Aside from talking with alumni about their experiences, students develop social skills and learn about one-on-one interaction.
“I’m naturally a people person, so I had no issues talking to people,” said Gabrielle Alter (‘19), who has worked on the phonation for four sessions since 2015. “I really enjoyed listening to people tell how Alma positively changed their lives.”
Alter’s favorite part of the phonathon was listening to alumni describe how the college positively impacted their lives. On average, Alter was apart of eight shifts for every session she was apart of.
However, Alter stated that she disliked the negative attitudes of some alumni who were irritated when asked to donate, including some who verbally harassed callers.
“The only call I was nervous about making was the first one ever. During all of the following calls I felt comfortable,” said Max Stepanets (‘19), who contacted between 250-300 alumni. Stepanets stated that the best part of his experience was successfully convincing alumni to donate. His time spent calling was around ten hours a week.
“It was all a learning experience, whether the call was a success or failure,” Stepanets added.
Last spring, the phonathon raised $100,000, although Neubecker expects to break that record.
“Becoming a student caller helps build a student’s resume and helps them gain valuable skills to take with them after Alma,” Neubecker said. “It is also a lot of fun.”