When college alumni get a phone call from Stanislaus State, they may not immediately realize that the caller on the other line is a Stan State student.
Student fundraisers work part-time, a minimum of three shifts per week. The program, which began Feb. 7, is established on an as-needed basis so each student is hired for one semester and then can apply again if the program is renewed.
Funds donated through these calls can be given to any fund the alumnus chooses. If no designation is recommended, gifts are directed to the President’s Fund for Regional Partnership Development.
“It’s about reconnecting with alumni,” said Mary Hartsfield, director of annual giving, who oversees the program.
Equipped with auto-dial technology, 24 students have successfully connected with more than 3,000 alumni. Having student callers reach out to alumni is an effective way to communicate with them, to offer them an opportunity to give feedback to the University, to provide a chance to make a financial gift and to update alumni demographic information.
For students in the Stan State call center, this is a job — one that is giving them real world experience, preparing them for their futures and likely helping them pay for the expense of being a college student.
“When I first started, I was overwhelmed and really nervous to talk to people over the phone and I didn’t want to mess up. I didn’t want to get hung up on,” said Tirzah Bruce, 19. “I’m not really nervous anymore.”
To the Stan State nursing sophomore, learning how to talk to people was a must, and just two weeks into the job, she realized the impact it’s having on her future.
“Even though it’s just over the phone it’s good to learn how to conduct myself,” Tirzah said.
Juan Ruiz-Olguin, 19, admits he loves to talk, but his position as a student fundraiser is more than just an excuse to chat. When he talks to alumni, Juan builds rapport. You may think the questions are scripted, and a couple of them are, but Juan is taking mental notes and applying what he learns from alumni to his future. This includes bucket list items (what he absolutely must do before he leaves campus) as well as advice on becoming successful post-college.
On a typical day, Juan, Tirzah and their colleagues are making 100 or more phone calls each in a four-hour shift.
On the computer, Juan can see information about the alumnus when he places the call, including their major. “If I see somebody with an English degree, I ask them for advice,” the sophomore English major shared.
“It’s great to hear alumni sharing what I should do to be successful in college,” Tirzah said.
So, what’s the best piece of advice Juan has garnered so far?
“Get a lot of internships, get a lot of experience and network,” Juan said. That’s one he hears a lot. “I want to go into writing for TV. There aren’t really many opportunities in the Central Valley to write for TV, but when it comes to networking — definitely.”
Juan doesn’t overlook the benefit his student job has on his resume either. Being able to include a line on how much money he’s raised personally for his alma mater is undoubtedly impressive.
Juan and Tirzah both said they collect at least one donation per day, and you better believe they are keeping track.
“Every time I collect a gift, I write it down,” Tirzah said.
“Alumni giving raises the prominence of the University, which in turn adds value to degrees conferred by Stanislaus State,” Hartsfield said. “The help of our alumni makes a big difference in our ability to provide needed support for our students.”