Most of the time when students receive a phone call from a number they don’t have they might assume one of two things; either it’s a telemarketer or a wrong number.
But Keene State College dedicates time to calling alumni throughout the year to check in and see what’s new.
According to Assistant Director of Annual Giving-Phonathon Manager Lindsay Taflas, KSC Giving-Phonathon is a program on campus that employs about 20 students as callers and trains them to make phone calls to roughly 30,000 alumni a year.
In addition she said, these phone calls serve multiple purposes such as updating alumni on what changes have taken place at the school since they left, to hear about how they are doing now that they have graduated and lastly to seek a donation for the school. But above all, these calls are about establishing a relationship between current KSC students and former ones.
KSC junior Sam Spielberg is one of the student callers for phonathon. She gets to make these calls and hear from the alumni firsthand.
“We update them on how campus has changed since they graduated and we talk to them about what they’ve been doing since they graduated and then we do ask them for money. But it is a lot more than that, we’re building relationships and we’re keeping that connection with alumni,” Spielberg said.
According to Taflas, last year alone $126,867 was raised at KSC. The phonathon took part in raising about half that number, while other efforts came from mailing and other solicitations.
Taflas is in charge of overseeing and managing the phonathon program. She explained what this money that is raised is going towards.
“We’re raising money mostly for scholarship and financial aid. And it goes right back to students as current use. So the money we bring in is going right back out. And I just don’t think students have any idea that we’re out here actively trying to help them pay for school,” Taflas said.
Another student caller, sophomore Rachel Harmon said her experience as a caller has been a great way to learn more about Keene and create relationships with alumni. In addition to asking for donations, students get an opportunity to converse with alumni and chat about things only Keene State students would know.
“I think it helped me to connect with Keene a lot more. I actually had one alumni who gave me a bucket list. She said ‘You have to go to sunset rock, you have to climb Monadnock before the leaves fall, you have to eat at this certain restaurant, you have to shop at the co-op.’ They tell you things that you wouldn’t know about if you were just an average student at Keene,” Harmon said.
She went on to explain the misconceptions of Giving-Phonathon and what its true purpose is.
“A lot of people see it as a telemarketing type of thing but it’s really more about keeping in touch with your school and by donating just a little bit, it helps out. The main reason we call is to hear about if they’ve been back and we would rather they come back and visit than worry about donating. Because if you come back and you love it here, you’ll want to give back,” Harmon said.
The thought of donating to a school that you already poured a large sum of money into is an absurd thought to some, however, Spielberg said that donating a small amount goes further than many might realize.
“When you donate to the fund, that’s one more person in our pool of donors and what the state does is they look at our phonathon program and how many donors we have. The more donors we have, then the more eligible we are for grants from the state,” Spielberg said.
She continued, “So, even if you’re not donating a huge amount, you’re still one more number and the larger that number is, the more the state helps. They really just want to see that alumni are still involved with the school.”
Taflas said a main factor in Giving-Phonathon’s success would be the callers and their ability to establish strong relationships with alumni for the overall well-being of KSC and its current and future students.
“They [alumni] love to chat about their old days here at Keene and their adventures and the things that they were involved with. And I just think if you have a really talkative social person on the phone, it’s easy to build that relationship. And before you know it, they’re having that ten minute conversation and the alum feels happy about giving and wants to give back,” Taflas said.
Sabrina Lapointe can be contacted at email@example.com.