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Students raise money, reconnect with alumni

Posted on 11.20.2013

The University of Indianapolis Phonathon obtains funds for the university from alumni, parents and friends.
According to Director of Annual Giving Lora  Teliha, when constituents receive a call from students at the Phonathon, they are being asked to donate to the university in several different ways, depending on the current fund drive. Some typical options are for a donation to the UIndy Fund, for specific departments, to a scholarship fund or for sports teams.
In the past, the university only asked for funds for the UIndy Fund, which is unrestricted and can be funneled where needed. The fund is still used, but a new approach is being tried.
According to Teliha, that approach is centered on departmental donations. Specific departments that reach out to the annual giving department can ask for money from their alumni to help with the needs of current students.
Assistant Director of Annual Giving Kendra Rhoton said that the Phonathon is one of the most important events of the year for the department.
“We probably obtain most of our donors through the Phonathon,” Rhoton said.
According to Teliha, last year, the Phonathon raised about $100,000.
And this amount only makes a small dent in the university’s needs.
“Most students think that once they’ve paid their tuition, they’ve done their part,” Teliha said. “In reality, that only covers about 70 percent of the university’s costs.”
Teliha said that the current trend for newer graduates is to see how their money is making a difference. She said that they are showcasing this by being more transparent about how the money is spent.
One specific way the annual giving office is doing this is on the UIndy annual fund page, where it displays the different levels of donations and what that can buy. For example, a $50 donation can buy test tubes for a chemistry lab, and $25,000 could create an endowed  scholarship.
According to Teliha and Rhoton,  along with this transparency, the staff also is trying to build a greater culture of philanthropy and make students, alumni and parents more aware through events and campus updates so they will be more willing to donate when they get that call.
The department does not do the work alone. In fact, they hire about 25 student callers to help each semester.
“It’s a great way to develop communication skills,” Teliha said.
Senior human biology and pre-dental major Ashley Burkins has been with the Phonathon since her freshmen year and is in her second year of interning with the program. Coming in, she wanted to learn people-management skills, and she has done just that.
“I’ve learned how to manage better, set goals and help people reach goals,” Burkins said. “I like to motivate people.”
Burkins and another student intern supervise the student callers on their nightly shifts. The callers work from a computer that contains information on constituents.
Callers dial many numbers nightly. According to Rhoton, the student callers make more than 1,300 calls in one night. Burkins said she believes the success rate is fairly high thanks to a trainer who came in and gave advice on how to overcome refusals. The callers also start conversations with updates on the university and campus and try to build a rapport before attempting to ask for donations.
Teliha said that only a small percentage of graduates who receive a degree from UIndy give back upon graduation.
Teliha said,  along with the Phonathon, the department is hosting a “Giving Tuesday” event. On Dec. 3rd, annual giving will set up a table in the student center to raise awareness about giving back to the university.  They hope that this will spur some students to give back later on.


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