Be on the lookout for a call from one of Clarion University's Phonathon workers. When you talk to them, you have an opportunity to help them grow professionally.
“We aren’t calling to bug or bother you,” said Miguel Vazquez-Ortiz, a sophomore Phonathon worker. “We call not only because it’s our job, but because we are passionate about Clarion University. The university has given so much to all students and alumni that we should all give back if at all possible. We call every year because alumni support is important.”
Student Phonathon workers call alumni, parents and friends to update their demographic information, talk to them about Clarion, answer any questions they might have and ask them to give back to Clarion, explained Brooke C. Mays ’18, annual Giving & Stewardship Manager.
Because of the pandemic, Phonathon workers have been meeting on Zoom to make calls while they are on mute. This gives them a sense of camaraderie while they make calls.
Phonathon workers report that working the phone lines helps them with their communication skills – a soft skill that employers seek once Clarion students leave the nest.
“Phonathon has enhanced my communication skills. It has taught me to be confident in my speech and choose my words wisely in order to be effective in conversation,” said Mara Chappie, a junior Phonathon worker.
Enhancing communication skills comes with practice and in order to get practice, students need to talk to you and other alumni.
“I was extremely nervous making my first call and even now I still get nervous calling, but doing something even something simple helps a lot. I now feel more confident making the effort to call people now for any topic or even talking to people who might be upset about differing things,” said Jessica Gadley, a sophomore Phonathon worker.
Alumni could get a call through April 25 when Phonathon wraps up for the spring semester. Seven students returned to the phones this semester beginning Jan. 25 and their impact is great.
Phonathon workers raise nearly $80,000 per year for the Clarion Opportunity Fund, an unrestricted fund, which benefits programming, scholarships, etc. However, donors often times give to their department or a specific scholarship.
“I also was nervous while making my first call. I think I was most nervous that they wouldn’t donate and they would think I’m not doing my job,” Vazquez-Ortiz. “The greatest moment for me while working there would be when I got my first donation!”
Mays added that working for phone lines gives the students a better understanding about the importance of giving back once they graduate.
Besides raising money for the Clarion Opportunity Fund, students reap some financial benefits for themselves. Phonathon students like the convenience of a work-study job, which fits around their school schedules.
“As a college student, I look for jobs that will be accommodating to class schedule. On campus jobs are an easy pick because the hours a week are minimal, they understand that school is my priority, and I’m always off on breaks. Phonathon drew me in because of all these reasons, and it provided me a chance to connect with alumni,” Chappie said.
Alumni have a real chance to connect with students in both nostalgic ways and as mentors.
“I really do love learning about your clarion experiences and the advice and encouragement you give!” Gadley said.
Chappie said her greatest moment working for Phonathon was when she made a call to a man who used to work for the Pennsylvania Game Commission.
“I am an environmental biology major, so we had very similar interests. He told me about opportunities he had working for them and informed me on different places I should apply to for internships,” Chappie said.
Mays said the students have the opportunity to foster positive relationships with everyone they talk to on the phone making it some of the most important work being done in the realm of alumni relations.
“The students are reaching out to alumni and hearing about their time at Clarion and how things have changed, where they ended up after graduation and many times just great life advice. These students may be Clarion’s only direct contact with alumni,” Mays said. “The students are always happy to tell me about the wonderful conversations they have and how they will remember what someone told them. These students get a firsthand look into the outside world.”
But in order for students and the university to reap these benefits, alumni simply need to answer the call.
“I would say that before someone picks up a call from us they should think back to their college days and reminisce about their time at clarion. We like to hear stories about how the university used to be,” Chappie said.
If you don’t have the time to talk to a caller on the phone, you can still support their efforts by making a gift at www.clarion.edu/answerthecall.