Students phone UD community, appeal for donations
University of Delaware

Students phone UD community, appeal for donations

No university can function without gifts from private donors. More than 40 students at UD participate in the UD Student Phone Program, appealing for donations to support University programs, including scholarships, campus expansion initiatives, athletics, student organizations and all seven colleges.Call Center

Last year, the program generated more than $1 million from 8,600 pledged donations. At the beginning of December, the program had a total pledged amount of $1,032,000, a pace well above the goal of $1.1 million for the 2012-2013 year, according to Phil Kuhne, phone program manager.

Student callers update records, share UD information, answer questions and explain how gifts help the University and students like themselves. They call alumni, parents of current and former students, previous donors, and friends of the University. In the spring, current UD seniors can expect phone calls for the 2013 Senior Class Gift campaign.

Alumni often like to trade stories with the student caller about their experiences at UD. Others like to share words of wisdom.

“One couple, Double-Dels [a couple who both attended UD] who were probably in their 60s, kept handing the phone back and forth—they wanted to tell me about all of their memories from UD,” said Student Supervisor, Amanda King, a senior exercise science major. “They wanted to hear my experiences, too.”

Call Center“When I explain I’m applying to medical school, people like to offer me advice,” said caller, Jessica Fenton, a senior triple-major in English, psychology and neuroscience. “They want to know what classes I’m taking, give me hints for applications and tell me which medical schools they think are best. It’s really cool to get advice from alumni who have been in my position.”

Student callers receive payment in exchange for their time spent calling donors. For those who work to offset the cost of their college education, the program offers a flexible solution. Students typically work three shifts a week, at night or on the weekends, which usually does not conflict with class.

Callers gain more than just monetary benefits from the program. The communication skills students develop prove to be just as valuable.

“It really does prepare students for life after college,” said Phil Kuhne, Student Phone Program Manager. “We’re teaching them how to persuade, how to ask people for gifts, which can be uncomfortable at first, and how to communicate effectively. All these skills are critical, regardless of the career paths they choose.”

Student caller Karen DiGangi, a junior Ancient Greek and Roman studies major, started working for the program in September. “I can already tell how my speaking has changed,” she said. “The program has made me more comfortable and more professional when speaking on the phone. I know it’s going to help me in the future.”Call Center

In order to keep up morale for the student callers, games, raffles, and ‘Caller-of-the-Month’ recognition help add a dose of fun and competition to the program. 

“I know I’ve always been a little competitive and many of our callers are, too,” said Kuhne.  “By keeping it fun and little competitive, the students are happier and their calls are more successful.”

The excitement in the room escalated as DiGangi received a $1,000 pledge. Student callers all echoed the importance of gifts of any size, though larger donations have an even greater impact. Earlier this fall, a student caller received a pledge of $50,000, making that night the most successful night in the program’s history.

“Many people don’t realize that tuition only covers half of the cost to run the University. We need the support of parents, alumni, and others to offset those costs,” said Kuhne. “Their support is crucial to keep UD moving forward.”

“Before I started with the phone program, I never thought about donating to the University,” said Sullivan. “But I have learned so much about UD and its history. I’ve seen how much gifts matter—even the smallest amount. I can’t wait to graduate and get the call.”

For more information, visit the Student Phone Program's site.

Article by Amanda Rominiecki

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