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Phonathons Connect Alumni and Students
This article originally appeared in the Bentley Magazine.
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From career advice to history lessons to job offers, alumni and parents give much more than financial support when they connect with Bentley Phonathon callers.
“When I was choosing my major, I asked marketing and management alumni what they were doing, how they got there,” says sophomore Rebecca Roeder, one of 30 student callers in the program. “It helped me decide.”
One alumnus even offered a job. “He said, ‘You're great at this. What are you doing over the summer?’” notes Roeder, who settled on a major in Marketing. “I live out of state, so it didn’t work out – but maybe next year.”
The Phonathon program is a top performer within the Bentley Fund, raising about $500,000 per year for essential campus programs and services. The calls typically go out on weekday evenings and Sundays; there is periodic daytime calling to potential supporters who are retired or prefer to be contacted during business hours.
Callers help alumni and parents stay connected to the school with reminders of upcoming reunions and information about Bentley-sponsored events in their area. Students also share their perspectives on the value of supporting the university.
“The money that students raise goes right back into their experience,” says Assistant Director of Development Cassandra Szczechowicz, who coordinates the program. “And alumni and parents really appreciate hearing from them.”
Training sessions introduce callers to fund raising in general and the Bentley Fund in particular. Students also make some mock calls, to get comfortable with the process and practice handling different scenarios.
“The callers are very informed and often can answer questions from alumni and parents themselves,” says Szczechowicz. Even so, students can complete a summary of each phone call that includes relevant comments; reports are read and sent to appropriate staff members for follow-up as needed.
Justine Eversman ’09, one of the program’s three student supervisors, keeps the calling crew motivated by setting nightly fund-raising goals and providing feedback.
“We teach them that the most important thing is connecting with alumni,” Eversman says. “Everyone has a story, and it’s always interesting to hear how they got where they are.”
Students are often asked if they receive a commission or a percentage of donations. That is not the case: Callers are paid a flat rate, often through the Work–Study program. Good job-performance can, however, lead to a raise.
A four-year veteran of the program, Eversman has logged conversations with doctors and historians as well as businesspeople from every imaginable industry. Alumni of the 1960s and earlier often talk about the original Bentley home on Boylston Street in Boston and provide other interesting perspectives on the school’s evolution.
Of all the stories she’s heard, though, one stands out. “I spoke to one alumna who had my dream life,” the Marketing major says with a smile. “She worked in fashion marketing for Victoria’s Secret. She had a New York penthouse, a husband who worked on Wall Street, and two kids. It sounded great.”
Naturally, Eversman seized the moment to seek advice – and the alumna was happy to oblige: Start at entry level, be a sponge, and be willing to look for new opportunities to continue advancing.