by Julie Joseph
Natalie Philpot spends most of her evenings at the University, talking on the phone. At least three times a week, the Concordia student travels downtown to a room on the fourth floor of the Faubourg Tower, where for three hours, her ear almost never leaves a receiver and her fingers rarely stop dialing.
She's part of the Capital Campaign's Phone-Mail Program. The program is an outgrowth of the University's three-year-old Annual Giving Telemarketing Program, but it is now also dialing for dollars on behalf of the Alumni and Friends Division of the Campaign for a New Millennium.
About 35 students work the phones. Overhead, posters are taped to the wall with reminders and calling tips written in colourful felt pens. One-third of the callers are international students from as far away as the Philippines, Ghana and even China.
All are linked by a common goal: getting alumni to reconnect with Concordia and make financial contributions to the University. They are also linked by a certain camaraderie; they laugh with each other and practise the pitches they will make to solicit pledges from graduates.
Before the campaign ends, 50,000 graduates from Concordia University, as well as the founding institutions of Sir George Williams University and Loyola College, will have been contacted.
To date, just under $700,000 in pledges has been raised since mid-October. Taking into consideration the extended pledge period(up to five years, in some cases) this is a remarkable result. Annual phone-mail pledges last year were $305,535.
Still, getting those pledges isn't easy. In Philpot's experience, only 30 per cent of the alumni actually make a pledge. "The people who graduated most recently are the worst," she admitted. "Many just brush you off even before you get a chance to tell them what you're calling about."
But Philpot's experiences aren't all bad -- far from it. She can't remember the number of times someone she called would start fondly reminiscing about their old school days. That nostalgia is what Colleen Weddell, the Advancement Officer who heads the program, counts on.
"If you've been gone from the University for 20, 10 -- even five years -- you tend to forget what it was like to be a student, and what things were important," Weddell said. "We're reminding them of that connection."
In light of the Capital Campaign, the calling pools were divided according to the Faculty of the
graduate and whether the alumnus was a Loyola or Sir George graduate. Then graduates from each section were recruited to write letters
to phone-mail prospects infor-
ming them of the Campaign and inviting them to make a gift to the University.
Diana Nemiroff, Curator of Contemporary Art at the National Gallery of Canada, wrote to Fine Arts alumni; Paul Kefalas, president and CEO of ABB Canada, sent his letter to graduates of Engineering and Computer Science; André Desmarais, president and co-CEO of Power Corporation of Canada,
contacted Commerce and Administration alumni; while Arts and Science graduates received a letter from Scott Laurie, national news correspondent for CTV news.
Graduates of Sir George Williams and Loyola College received letters from IATA's director-general, Pierre Jeanniot (SGW), or Petro-Canada's president and CEO, James Stanford (Loyola). They wrote passionately on behalf of the University, and have been instrumental in generating such good results. Telephone solicitation of alumni has been used by American universities for years. Canada, however, has been slow to follow suit, but is looking to make up for lost time.
"While they study at Concordia," Weddell said, "all our students benefit from the support shown by graduates. It's important that the students recognize this, and give back to the next generation once they are alumni."