Dialing for dollars

It’s like a secret society.In a dimly lit room in the Old Chapel, there are 16 sparsely decorated booths, each containing a phone, a student and little else. There are half eaten crackers and homemade cookies that serve as phoning fuel for the students who dial away seeking cash for the school from alums.

Despite the dismal responses of most, who insist time after time that they have just lost their job, or cite the condition of our current economy, the annual Castleton phone-a-thon is having little trouble raising money to reach its 2009 goal.

Otherwise known as the annual giving fund, the phone-a-thon takes place from Jan. 25 to March 19. It takes the form of two, three-week sessions, beginning after the December holiday and proceeding until March.

“We generally send out a letter prior to break informing alumni that, yes, it’s that time of the year again.” said Yvonne Manovill, associate director of Development and Alumni Relations. She explained that there are three ways that the money collected.

The first phase is entitled “direct holiday mail,” which is followed by the direct phone calls, which brings in about half of all money raised.

The third is from uncommitted donors, who receive information in the mail and send money at a later time.

“It’s not just about the money though. It is about making connections,” Manovill said. “This opportunity is three-fold. It gives students the opportunity to connect with alumni, parents, and retirees. Secondly, it gives the alumni a chance to reminisce, ask questions and advise students. And thirdly, it is a successful instrument for appealing to folks for funding for scholarship.”

Despite having already raised half of the 2009 goal, a gloomy economy is forcing some former donors to pass this year, even on $5 donations.

The economy is also making for some tough phone calls for students.

“I was shocked to hear one response last week,” freshman Jackie Lockwood stated. “The mother of the alumni answered the phone and basically told me how it was. ‘There’s no way in hell she will be interested right now.’Unfortunately she’s only getting two nights of work a week.”
“‘I wish that I could help you but it’s just not possible this year,'” she told the student.

But Manovill isn’t worried.

“Sure, it has an effect on some folks, but we haven’t seen a downturn in our numbers. The alumni are just excited to help in any way that they can,” she said.

While student workers at the phone-a-thon will now struggle to raise the second half of the goal, they’ll continue calling alums who have donated and others who never have. And they won’t be surprised when some like Julie Maliere say no.

“We’re not doing any donations until Obama can pull us out of debt,” she said recently.

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