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Well-known San Franciscan fundraiser Kay Grace said, “In good times and bad, we know that people give because you meet needs, not because you have needs.” This is exactly why the university’s Annual Giving Department, which is part of USF’s University Advancement division, maintains a successful and thriving telephone fundraising program called the Phonathon. Around 65 students from different majors and years work for the Phonathon program. Together they make alumni and parent outreach phones calls to share recent news from campus and to explain how critical donations are to the university and fulfillment of its core mission.

These calling sessions last three hours and occur five times a week . What is unique about this particular fundraising program is that not only are all of the fundraisers students, but it is partially managed by students, as well. They are amazingly successful; some individuals have been known to raise over $15,000 in a single semester! The fundraising program serves in two capacities. First, it raises necessary and important funds for USF. Second, it improves communication between alumni/parents and USF. There is no better way to provide that communication than through a student’s voice. These students are excellent ambassadors for USF and have a chance to work on important professional skills such as communication.

Calling of constituents is managed by SmartCall software, a computerized phone calling database that USF has been using since 1992. The phone calls are not prerecorded messages; each call made has a student voice at the end of it. However, the names, phone numbers, and information about who to call are prompted to the student callers through this electronic system. Each student sits in front of a computer and a phone when doing the calling and they record the person they have just contacted’s response in the database before moving onto the next person. This is made possible because SmartCall imports and segments records from the Banner database.  ITS and Advancement Services, another department within University Advancement, are currently working to automate synchronization between the Banner and SmartCall databases.

ITS collaborated with Advancement Services to make sure this process runs as smoothly as possible. Through the work of the IT Department and members of the Advancement Services Department, this product is always in working order by the time student callers sit down for the beginning of their shift. Students can often be found scattered throughout the first floor of the Rossi Wing and in the Lone Mountain Computer lab, Monday — Thursday evenings, and Sunday afternoons. Of course, ITS is always available if anything were to go wrong with the computers.

This program provides a way to raise money while also teaching valuable and marketable skills to student workers. Perhaps the best thing about the program is the ability for the worker to grow within it. This automated calling and fundraising system allows for students to climb the ranks and  to gain experience training and managing students while helping the Assistant Director of Annual and Special Giving run the program. The students callers at USF work hard every day to ensure that USF can stably procure the funds it needs to keep acting as a leader in the community.

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