Students Take to the Phones for a Great Cause
When your phone rings, it may be your alma mater calling. This fall a
highly enthusiastic group of Sac State students began calling alumni to
talk about enhancing the value of a Sac State degree now and for the future
by giving back to the University. There is a vested connection on both
ends of the phone as these new fundraisers find out what alumni want and
are interested in supporting at their University.
These are students who love Sac State. Ask them to sing the fight song
over the phone and they will. Some of the questions from alums are a challengeWas
the library built backwards? Why are there chickens on campus?But
its all part of a job that pays off all the way around, according
to Maggie Elkin, director of the
Telephone Outreach Program.
Nicole Jernigan, a sophomore who is planning to be a teacher, is a natural
for the job. I love to talk to people and I love to talk on the
phone, she laughed. Shes served as a greeter at an amusement
park and as a hostess. I just like to talk to people and to hear
This job is fun and interesting, and you get a chance to learn a
lot about campus, she said, while thumbing through materials to
locate information on Solano Hall for a question someone asked.
Meghan McCummings said while shes never done anything like this
before, she knows its a good match because, Im a pretty
talkative, friendly person. And Im generally pretty nice and happy.
I think its interesting to hear about the past and what others
experiences were while they were here, added Erin Upchurch. And
I know that we are
calling for a good cause.
Donovan Pierce, a communication studies major in his second year on campus,
found the transition from his previous job easy. He used to provide phone
tech support to irate computer users. Calling University donors is not
nearly as difficult, he said. But most of all, he said he wants to support
Sac Statethats important.
The students and Elkin find there are many benefits to the job. First,
they get good advice from alums on what courses to take and how to prepare
for their careers. There may be job offers from alums. And, of course,
there is work experiencelearning customer service and serving as
a representative of the University.
Before students get on the telephone, the University invests in developing
their professionalism and overall knowledge of the University. There is
a 15-hour training course so they clearly understand how and why a public
university depends on the gifts from its alumni to establish an extra
measure of excellence.
About 50 percent of the Universitys support is from non-state funds,
which provide for only the core programs, explains Georgina Borton, associate
vice president of advancement. In past years money given to the annual
fund has helped upgrade labs, provide additional scholarships, fellowships,
symposiums, lectures and special faculty projects, as well as assist the
marching bandwhich has promised to develop a special alumni tune
in exchange for the support.
The student fundraisers, 20 in all who work in shifts of nine, know they
are doing something important for the University. Its one
of those jobs where the outcome can change peoples lives. Their
efforts can help to enrich the programs of the University and to help
students to get the most from their experience here, said Elkin,
the program director.
The students are fundraisers, but there are no scripts, no quotas and
no pressure. The conversation with the alum can run from 30 seconds to
30 minutes. Elkin stressed that she and the students know this is about
conversations and relationships with proud alums, letting them know what
they can do to help their University.
One donor alum asked to have the same student call next time so he could
find out how she was doing through her freshman year.
You should hear some of the conversationslike an engineering
student listening to a recent grad, and both discussing a bridge project
in great detail. They are totally engaged and totally interested. And
both are thinking about Sac State and what their experience has done to
change their lives. Thats what this is about, Elkin said.
And for sure, if you give a gift, youll get a thank you note
from the student you worked with, Elkin promised.
Borton said she wanted to get the call center operating for this years
annual fund drive because, This is where most donors participate.
This is where we can keep donors and friends of the University informed.
This is a link to the campus for alums. And, with the tremendous growth
this campus is experiencing, there are needs, believe me there are needs,
that these donations can address.
Borton projects that within three years the call center will be generating
nearly $500,000 from generous alums and friends, who like knowing that
they can be of help in changing students lives or the face of the
She said, Our alumni donors are increasing, but we want to raise
that participation. Lets face it, money affects the quality of programs
and the experience students have on campus.