Making the Call
Behind the scenes at the A-Fund phone center
On a visit to the call center, the din hits you: a cacophony of laughter, chatter, and the occasional woohoo! when a student lands a large gift. It’s the Annual Fund’s phone bank, and when in full swing, it’s a happening place. The scene is “super high energy,” says Tom Navin, director of the Annual Fund, “and somewhat chaotic.” The paid student phone center was created in the mid-1980s to professionalize drives previously staffed by alumni volunteers. “Keeping spirits high is really important,” says caller Mariann Simon ’11. “Especially to get you through a string of voice mail messages.”
Simon and about 150 others make live contact with about 90,000 alumni a year to ask them to support the Fund. In the process, they gain a deeper understanding of UMass Amherst.
“Donors give back because they really loved the experience they had here,” says Lindsey Hudson ’11. “The majority also believe UMass Amherst helped them get where they are now. It’s inspiring to know so many people feel so strongly about where I too am getting my education.”
Often, callers find that alumni are eager to reminisce about their days on campus or relay their life experiences. “I talked to a 1990s graduate who had gone to Wall Street to be a stockbroker,” says Carmen Martinez ’11. “Then one day he decided to cash out and become a day-player on soap operas. It makes me think anything is possible in life, even if it’s not part of the original plan.”
Navin says the phone program is the foundation of philanthropy at UMass Amherst: “A $100 gift a student gets over the phone today can turn into a $1 million pledge in 10 years,” he says. “Connecting students with alumni is the most effective way of raising funds from such large numbers of people, and many truly enjoy the opportunity to speak to each other.”
For the callers, it’s a great way earn spending money, and also to meet fellow students, says Martinez. “When we’re in between shifts or run into each other at the Blue Wall, we all sit around a table, chat, and eat…it’s good times with kids from the A-Fund.”