DSU students raise money for scholarships
Dakota State University students are raising money for scholarships by calling alumni and friends of DSU and asking for their support.
The students are part of the phonathon that reaches out to nearly 12,000 potential DSU donors each year. Students start calling in September and end in April, prior to the busy weeks of finals and graduation. DSU President Dr. Doug Knowlton occasionally joins the students in making solicitation calls, often surprising the alum on the other end of the phone with his personal message asking for scholarship support.
DSU Annual Fund manager Jill Ruhd coordinates the phonathon, and was once a student caller herself. "I remember many nights calling alumni and hearing such positive remarks about what DSU is doing, especially with technology." Those positive feelings often translate into gifts back to the university. "We call donors, update their address information, tell them about what is going on at DSU, and answer questions they may have. We also ask for a donation to scholarships or to programs on campus." Ruhd says the calling this year is going very well, with pledges of nearly $65,000.
Students apply for jobs with the phonathon, with Ruhd screening applicants for communication skills. "The students need to be able to talk to alumni and answer questions, not just follow a script," says Ruhd. "They often get into conversations about the campus and that is encouraged. It helps establish a connection between the student and the alum." Seven of the callers this year are also student-athletes.
With caller identification and the use of cell phones and other call screening devices, Ruhd says the job of the phonathon has become more challenging over the years. She relies on other forms of communications from DSU including email and the Dakota State Magazine, to set the stage for the callers so potential donors know to expect a phone call from DSU. "Even with the other forms of communication, we still like to make the personal contact with our alumni and friends that only a phone call can provide," says Ruhd. "There is something special about actually talking to an alum that makes it easier to tell our DSU story, and to convey how important their support of the university truly is." Ruhd says the current students especially enjoy connecting with the alumni from General Beadle State College, and sharing stories back and forth, of what college was like in the 1960's compared to what it is like now.
The phonathon runs throughout the academic year, with calls made Sunday through Thursday. The phonathon call center is located in the lobby of Lowry Hall, formerly a dorm, and now home to computing services and other campus offices.