Illinois State University will celebrate its 150th anniversary in 2007, and the Telefund will claim its 16th birthday at the same time. The Telefund, a yearly personal call from the University, has raised more than $1 million each of the past two years to provide for programs, scholarships and departmental needs.
Director of the Annual Fund, Adam Goduto, said there are 32 student-staffed call stations in the Telefund building, and during the academic year all stations are filled nightly. This summer, the Telefund was remodeled and new call stations were added. Each student caller attempts about 150 calls per night with about 20 completions and an average gift of $55. The student callers answer alumni questions, update their alumni records, inform alumni about their college and department and solicit pledges for the Annual Fund.
Each fall, students call Business, Fine Arts, and Education alumni. In the spring, they call Applied Science and Technology, Mennonite and Arts and Sciences alumni. In the summer, Milner Library, the Leadership Institute, Thomas Metcalf School and University High School alumni will get a ring. Some alumni affinity groups such as Gamma Phi Circus and the Parents Fund also are called.
Goduto started as a student caller in 1999 and continued throughout his undergraduate education at Illinois State. He was the Telefund coordinator before becoming the director of the Annual Fund more than a year ago. With all of his experience, Goduto is well qualified to know what kind of student will succeed at the Telefund.
“I look for enthusiasm and honesty,” he said. “Callers are not merely reading script lines, but are also interacting with alumni and personalizing the interaction so much that the average call time has increased from two to eight minutes. Alumni really enjoy talking with current students.”
Goduto said calls can be interesting and funny. “One night I called an alum who happened to be at Mardi Gras,” he said. “He said he would pledge $20,000 if I would give him a personal tour of Illinois State and hang out with him. I never collected on that pledge.”
Goduto recruits students through flyers, job fairs, Springfest, word of mouth and the Human Relations Web site. He hires more than 300 students during the academic year from more than 1,000 applications, with each student caller working a minimum of nine hours per week. Students go through a 15-hour training session, and they get an incentive bonus for team and individual performance. Students are generally calling alumni from their own college so as to provide information and facts more readily from their experiences.
Technology is an integral part of the Telefund. All calls are currently computer dialed and alumni information is computerized for easier updating. New technology will allow for contact, solicitation and stewardship though the Internet and with streaming video. Alumni are offered the opportunity to receive e-mail communication, and Goduto said he is always looking for more and better ways to contact, interact with and assist alumni in their relationship with Illinois State University.