Sudeshna Dev, a first-year Social Relations major at UC Riverside, has a tough job – she works for the Annual Fund Student Call Center.
Her duties include calling parents, alumni and others with an interest in UCR to let them know about what is happening on the campus and how they can become involved.
An aspiring public relations executive, her biggest fear as she waits on the line is that the person answering the phone will think she is just another telemarketer.
“My heart is always pounding,” says Dev, who said she is excited to talk with alumni who are out in the real world.
As someone who depends on financial aid herself, Dev knows that the information she has to offer has life-changing possibilities – for the potential donor, as well as for those who benefit from that support.
Each week, between Sunday and Thursday, Dev and more than a dozen students gather at the Annual Fund Student Call Center to reach out and connect with thousands of UCR alumni, parents and friends.
Their goal? To strengthen the bonds between the extended UCR family and the campus community. The student callers provide news about students, faculty and events, and encourage involvement with the Alumni Association, school reunions, and community service opportunities, and by helping donors understand the impact of their philanthropic support.
Since its inception in 1994, the Annual Fund has raised more than $2.7 million in unrestricted support and made connections with more than 65,000 alumni, parents and friends. By extending opportunities to give over the phone or online, the call center is the fastest and easiest way for donors to direct their support to areas of greatest personal interest.
The growing use of caller ID, homes connected to the Internet during calling hours and the challenge of keeping up with rapidly changing phone, address and e-mail contact information are all concerns of Nesha Crossman, director of the UCR Annual Fund.
“One of our biggest challenges is the competition with outside telemarketers who are calling households during the same time frame,” she says.
“We know how busy our alumni are, but hope that they will give us the chance to help them stay connected with their alma mater.”
Last year, an investment by UCR’s Board of Trustees transformed the Call Center into a technologically advanced automated phone system.
This upgrade could not have come at a better time, said Crossman.
The Annual Fund, which plays a key role in support of Evolutions: UCR’s 50th Anniversary Campaign, is now better equipped to promote scholarship and fellowship support as a main objective.
Since going live last March, student callers have made contact with 11,600 alumni, parents and friends, raising a total of $245,175 in gifts and pledges.
“Many alums are surprised to learn that it costs a student living on campus more than $20,000 a year to attend,” says Crossman. “When you consider that almost 70 percent of our undergraduates receive some form of financial aid, the need for us to increase scholarship support is clear.”
Growing numbers of UCR alumni and friends are becoming aware of this issue.
Last year, donors to the UCR Annual Fund helped provide more than $260,000 in aid and scholarship support for students.
“The better we are at getting the word out, the more we will achieve together,” said Crossman.