Getting involved pays back
Victoria Zielinski | Asst. Opinion Editor | The USD Vista
When alumni of the University of San Diego look back on their time as Toreros, their fondest memories of USD may vary. It could be their favorite professor or the proximity of the beach, but chances are their memories include activities, friends, and opportunities that came about through being involved on campus.
At the University of San Diego Telefunding Center, student callers tap into these memories to raise funds for USD by making phone calls to a network of over 35,000 alumni, parents, and friends of the university, as stated on the Telefunding website.
Student employees shared insight into the Telefunding Center and their duties to the university as callers.
Sophomore Tyler Arden, a student caller, explained the importance of alumni giving back in relation to USD’s status.
“Not many people know that the percentage of alumni that give back affects our national ranking,” Arden said. “That’s the main reason we encourage all of our alumni to participate in giving back at any amount they can.”
Arden stated that telefunding callers suggest different areas in which alumni can support the university.
“Alumni mostly give back to the Alcala Alumni Fund to support scholarships and the greatest needs here on campus,” Arden said. “When we are talking with them though, we suggest funds that they can give to that match their passions and groups they were involved with when they attended school here.”
Student callers update alumni on current happenings on campus so that they can feel better connected to the school they once called home.
“Basically, the goal of telefunding is to reach out to our alumni and let them know about what’s happening here on campus and to encourage them to give back to the university,” Arden said.
Arden explained that a lack of interest from alumni can be discouraging to the student callers who are trying to raise funds for the school.
“It’s always tough when alumni are apathetic to giving when their support means so much for all of us students here,” Arden said.
Arden is also impressed by the care and awareness of alumni who give back to their alma mater.
“USD provides so much to us students that wouldn’t be possible without support from alumni,” Arden said. “It’s always amazing to see the generosity of Toreros in how they pay that support forward to the next generation of students here.”
Senior Michaela Conley explained that telefunding calls are generally positive. She stated that alumni are excited to hear about the school and what has changed, especially if it has been awhile since they graduated.
“Of course, there are some exceptions when alumni are straight up rude or indifferent to our call,” Conley said. “But since most alumni enjoyed their time at USD, they are usually happy to hear from us.”
Conley shared that telefunding calls are very organized, and that the student callers have insight into each call they are making.
“We have certain lists that we call, and each of us sit at a computer with an automatic calling system that dials through the lists,” Conley said. “We can see the caller’s personal information, their involvement at USD, and their donation history. Based on that, we mold our calls to them. Some examples of our lists are Law, School of Business, Young Alumni, and we even have a list in which we call previous telefunders, which is a fun list to call because the people we’re talking to understand the process.”
As far as speaking with less- than-willing alumni, Conley stated that callers are prepared to deal with disgruntled alumni.
“If people are irritated by our call, they usually just don’t pick up,” Conley said. “In training, we go over very specific ways in which to deal with alumni that are upset, so we usually have replies for most of their complaints. However, that really is the rare case and most experiences are positive.”
Conley stated that she would definitely be apt to donate to USD through telefunding in the future.
“Once you work for telefunding, you realize how integral donating is for the university,” Conley said. “As a private school, all of our funding has to come from alumni or individual donors, so giving back is important. I understand that student loans are insane, and that’s a common argument that we get. However, as someone who is on scholarship, I can attest to how important the generosity of alumni is to students like myself.”
Since donations are a fundamental aspect of students’ lives, deciding whom to call is important.
“We call alumni more often, so I would say alumni donate more,” Conley said. “Parents usually donate at a higher amount, but that is because our asking amount for them is higher. However, we only call parents for a short time during the semester.”
Senior Tandy Johnson-Cryns, a student [telefunding] manager, shared that call recipients reactions are generally positive, except for the occasional irritated alum.
“We find that young alumni usually give a small amount, most likely because their memory of USD is so fresh,” Johnson-Cryns said. “Parents tend to give a lot, because they have the money to do so, and they want their kid’s school to be great.”
Johnson-Cryns explained that the work environment of the telefunding office makes it an enjoyable position to hold during the school year.
“My favorite part is the community that we have in the office,” Johnson-Cryns said. “I’ve made my best friends from telefunding, and you learn a lot in the process. Callers care about the cause and they are good at calling so they learn why the job is so important.”
Junior Samantha Carpenter, a student caller, has been working at the Telefunding office for a year now, and she expressed how the funds are used for many out-of-classroom opportunities for students that they may not receive elsewhere.
“Internships, travel to conferences, scholarships, and Torero Treks are just some of the experiences the funds go towards,” Carpenter said. “It’s also interesting for alumni to share how the campus has changed since they attended USD.”
As far as donating as a future alum, Carpenter stated that it depends on what kind of job she secures to be able to spare some of her paycheck back to USD.
“I think USD alumni would like to give back to their school, but sometimes it just isn’t possible at certain points in time,” Carpenter said. “Someone who just got a job out of school will probably be thinking about paying rent and groceries, not about donating to USD.”
Jared Coleman, the Telefunding manager, explained that the overall goal of Telefunding is to raise money for different initiatives on campus. These can include scholarships, financial aid, faculty enrichment, new buildings, technological updates, and materials for the library.
“Typically we raise about $400k each year — the funds go to whichever designation the donor chooses,” Coleman said. “Usually it is our Alcala Alumni Fund for our alumni, Parents Fund for parents, and Law Annual Fund for our law alumni.”
The Alcala Alumni Fund supports the university’s greatest needs and impacts all of campus, according to the Alumni Association website. The Parents Fund for parents supports scholarships, the development of academic programs, and the maintenance of campus facilities, as stated on the parent relations website. The Law Annual Fund works toward advancing USD’s reputation and increasing the value of a USD Law degree, according to the USD School of Law website.
Coleman stated that alumni who were more active in campus life typically have more ties and connections to USD than alumni who were not as involved.
“Usually our alumni who were involved on campus, such as any club, sport, or events, tend to give back more than others,” Coleman said. “They have more of a connection to the university, and the caller has more to work with when trying to build rapport about USD.”
Because telefunding calls may be unexpected, Coleman said that recipients of the calls can have different reactions when receiving a random call from an unknown number that turns out to be the telefunding office.
“Usually our parents think something has happened to their child when we first call, but afterwards they are always excited to hear from a student who is like their own,” Coleman said. “With alumni, a majority have had a good experience with the university and enjoy hearing what has changed since they have left.”
Alumni support is not just important for receiving new buildings or books; it is also vital to the overall experience and education of current Toreros.
For many students, graduation may simply be a thought far into the future. For others, it could be right around the corner. The importance of alumni donations weighs the same no matter what year a student may be.
It is important to recognize alumni who support current students were also supported by alumni at one point. This cycle will continue as the Torero alumni network expands with each graduating class.