After seeing an inspiring story shared by old friend and colleague, Jamie Raynor, about an alumna of Western Carolina University working as nurse during this pandemic, I had questions.
You see, this incredible story is one of many uncovered by their Chatty Cat Phonathon callers during their recent “check-in” calls. I wanted to know how they took their phonathon remote, continuing to provide student employment during this crisis while also doing important work for the university.
Here are my questions and Jamie’s answers:
Tell me about how WCU is utilizing their phonathon callers during the pandemic.
"Within the Western Carolina University Division of Advancement, we’re using our best callers to conduct ‘check-in’ calls with our alumni during this quarantine time. They are sharing the student experience and listening to the alumni experience during these short, scripted calls."
What sort of stories have the callers uncovered and how is the university using those stories?
"The callers are finding that the alumni are pleasantly surprised by the call, and many are eager to chat and share ideas, stories, and experiences. The callers flag records of alumni who are doing unique and/or front line COVID work and those are shared with me for story leads.
I work with our Marketing and Communications colleagues on bringing the strongest of these story leads to them on a weekly basis. Completed alumni story profiles are used on our alumni website (alumni.wcu.edu), our social media channels, and our alumni e-newsletter.
Most of the stories that our Chatty Cat callers hear are about our alumni who are teachers, nurses, public administrators, hospital administrators, researchers, and manufacturers (particularly in areas for parts for ventilators and PPE, personal protective equipment), and we’ve had some who are specialized in unique areas like funeral home owners and leaders in cruise line sanitation.
The Chatty Cats have also spoken to several alumni who serve on our Board of Trustees, and those Trustees have provided very complimentary notes on their chats with these students. Overall these calls strengthen our Catamount community and allow for relationship building around a common struggle for us all. For those alumni who have said ‘how can we help’ the student callers reference one of our student emergency funds and guide the alumni to give.wcu.edu/relief for gifts."
Now to get down in the weeds a bit: what technology are you using to empower the callers to work from home. How are they being trained and supervised via distance?
What software are we currently using for the call center/remote calling?
Is there anything else you want to share about calling during this pandemic?
"Yes, our development officers have each used this same ‘check-in’ call model to call through their portfolios, and most have followed these up with emails for next steps. Our front-line fundraisers have noted the great ability to learn more about their donors and prospects with these simple calls, and have been encouraged by the donor’s willingness to really connect over the phone. Most have been happy to have someone to talk to.
Our Director of Donor Relations is mailing handwritten notes to hundreds of donors who give unrestricted gifts as an extra touch-point during this time as well. Our Alumni Engagement Office has partnered with Development Staff to create Alumni Zoom Socials, which we launched with our Triangle Alumni Club (Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill area) last week. We have 16 additional Zoom social hours scheduled for the next 3 weeks to connect with our alumni."
Is there anything else you want to share about fundraising during this challenging time?
We have partnered with our Office of Community Service and Engagement to work with our local Jackson County non-profit organizations along with our Student Emergency Fund to raise money for COVID related needs on May 5, 2020 during #GivingTuesdayNow. We will stand up a webpage on the WCU website to share the WCU Foundation mission and student emergency fund giving link along with our non-profit partners’ mission and giving links, so our WCU alumni and friends can support our community in the area of their choice.
Also, our development officers started with phone calls, emails, and handwritten notes to their donors for stewardship and prospects for cultivation but have now moved to scheduling Zoom meetings for moving the donor relationship forward towards solicitations and gift negotiations.
About Jamie Raynor
As a higher education professional for over 17 years, Jamie Raynor gained early experience in academic affairs for several years before turning her focus and her profession to development and advancement initiatives. In her temporary role, she currently serves as the interim vice chancellor for WCU's Division of Advancement for Advancement Services, Alumni Engagement, and Development staff, also serving on the Chancellor's Executive Council. Her permanent role as Assistant Vice Chancellor includes the supervision of major, planned, and annual giving professionals in the development office. She also manages a portfolio of corporations, foundations, and individuals to secure major and planned gifts.
Have you been utilizing the unique talents of your phonathon callers during this crisis? Why or why not? Did this case study make you feel any differently about trying it out? If social distancing measures persist into the Fall semester, how do you plan to handle your phonathon? Let me know down in the comments.
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PS - If you liked this article, you might like:
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