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Making the Call

Maybe it’s the bowling.

Each night, 20 students assemble around a bank of phones and dial for dollars—and incentives. The students are the University’s phoneathon crew, a thick-skinned bunch who spend two and a half hours each evening calling alumni and friends, trying to raise money for the annual fund. It’s a tough job, filled with hang-ups and wrong numbers. But phoneathon manager Ann Moore understands the student mind-set and employs a number of motivational tactics aimed to inspire them and ease the blow from bad calls. Her strategy: food, money and fun—although not necessarily in that order.

The students arrive each night to free sodas, an $8 an hour pay scale—one of the highest-paying student jobs on campus—and a fistful of incentives. They get an extra dollar for each donor who pays with a credit card, another dollar for new or increased pledges, and a host of goodies if they make various goals—passes to Kings Island, BB Riverboats, movies, Skyline Chili. Oh, and bowling.

Moore promised the crew a night of bowling if they met their $150,000 goal for October. Hey, a night crammed into a smoky building wearing ugly shoes. What student could resist, right? Not these. They raised nearly $200,000. It’s always a challenge, though. The group makes an average of 1,400 calls a night, never knowing what to expect when the person answers. One caller, for instance, had a child ask her to try back on Oct. 32. Another caller received a pledge of $5,000 from a previous non-donor. The average pledge is $50 to $250, with about $7,000 raised nightly.

The phoneathon generates nearly 20 percent of the annual fund’s revenue, which goes into the University’s general fund, where it replenishes budgetary dollars, finances scholarships, boosts technology and keeps tuition down. “There’s nothing more important year in and year out than the annual fund,” says Dan Cloran, the annual fund’s director. “It’s absolutely critical to the lifeline of the University, and the phoneathon plays a vital part in meeting that need.” It’s a good combination—the University earns vital revenue, and the students get to go bowling.

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