Alumni calling campaign in high gear

February 23, 2006, vol. 35, no. 4
By Erica Branda

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Five nights per week, four hours per night (six on Sundays) for eight consecutive weeks, 18 student callers each are placing 20 to 25 calls per hour to SFU alumni as part of the spring alumni calling appeal.

Their primary goal is to raise funds for endowments that support student scholarships, bursaries and the library, but in the process they are also raising friends.

Andrew Fan, a fourth-year criminology student, is working on his third calling campaign. "A lot of SFU graduates have good jobs, the kind that people strive for. It's nice for me to learn how they got to their positions," he says. "And alumni are always curious to hear what is happening at SFU."

Fan has had engaging conversations lasting up to 30 minutes with alumni, picking up career tips, nostalgic references and university trivia along the way. (He might be the only undergraduate student who knows that the abandoned lot behind the west mall complex was once a gas station.)

Alumni learn about recent developments at SFU and receive important information about alumni benefits and services. This strong focus on building relationships has made alumni calling a coveted job for students, with many returning year after year.

Sofia Janmohamed, development officer responsible for SFU's annual appeal, is now working on her fourteenth campaign. She started as a student caller and has been involved in every aspect of the process from analysing statistics and processing donations up to campaign leadership.

Her passion drives the program and has led to an employee retention rate beyond comparison. "I really feel tied to the university. I am so fortunate to be able to have had a great education and a great career at SFU," she says. "Sometimes I see students who are just like I was. I enjoy training and nurturing them to do something great for the university and their peers."

SFU advancement runs two nine-week calling campaigns each year - one in the fall and one in the spring. The fall campaign focused on renewing previous donations. It surpassed its $350,000 goal, raising about $370,000 from more than 4,700 alumni, with the average gift increasing from $65 to $78. The spring campaign, which began on Jan. 29 and will run through to March 23, is focusing on acquiring new donors and has a goal of $150,000. The team is confident they will succeed.

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