Office of University Communications & Marketing

UNA Students Bring In Donations For Annual Fund During Phonathon
Dec. 7, 2011



FLORENCE, Ala. – Soaring college tuition rates in Alabama recently inspired the Office of Annual Giving at the University of North Alabama to take creative action in seeking donations for the annual fund. Organizers initiated a phonathon called Smile and Dial, which brought in approximately $60-70,000 for UNA in November.

The Office of Annual Giving employed 36 UNA students to encourage alumni and friends of the university to donate money for deserving students. For three weeks, the phonathon callers worked each day in the evenings to give alumni a student’s perspective about UNA and to ask for monetary donations.

Although the dollar amount in actual giving was lower this year compared to phonathon proceeds from 2010, Melody Stewart, director of annual giving, said average pledge numbers, credit card donations, matching gifts and new donor rates were higher than ever. Donations from the phonathon go directly to UNA’s 1830 fund to support scholarships, academic programs, campus improvements and more.

Stewart said the 1830 fund, also known as the annual fund, is the easiest way for donors to make a big difference at UNA.

“The annual fund is a really easy way for young alums to give that are just starting out in their careers,” she said. “They can give $50, and in conjunction with others who are giving $50, can make the biggest impact. The annual fund makes up the bricks of the institution. It has the greatest versatility and allows us to add the extra perks to the student experience.”

UNA switched to a new phonathon service in spring 2010 with contractor Wilson Bennett Technology. Under this company, this year's student callers underwent a mandatory training session to learn the company’s software, phone script and how to communicate effectively with alumni.

Stewart said more than 100 students applied for this fall’s phonathon. Each student who applied had a phone interview with the Office of Annual Giving and was assessed for certain personality traits, ability to speak clearly and comfortably and knowledge of the university.

Jacob Wallace, a freshman professional writing major, got involved with the phonathon in order to gain experience and become more involved on campus. He said working at the phonathon benefited him for his future career and helped him grow as a person.

"I feel it helped me build my communication skills," he said. "I now feel that I can talk to anyone on the phone and have no fear of doing it, and I am sure it will look great on a resume. Learning to communicate better and in a way that fulfills a specific purpose can benefit anyone."

Although working for the phonathon had its ups and downs, Wallace believes students with communication or marketing-related majors will benefit most from the work experience. Stewart said the phonathon will start looking for new applicants to work as callers for the spring semester beginning Feb. 1 of next year.

According to Stewart, the alumni giving percentage in November 2009 was .94 percent, while this year’s percentage jumped to 3.56 percent last year. She said the amount of alumni giving and faculty/staff contributions at UNA determines whether corporations or private foundations give grants to the university.

For more information about annual giving, contact Melody Stewart at 256-765-5080 or mastewart@una.edu.