Senior helps bring donations to CMU through Phonathon
Tyler Moore is used to making 200 phone calls per night.
As student supervisor, he helps monitor Phonathon in the basement of the Carlin Alumni House at Central Michigan University. There, student employees work Sunday through Thursday, calling alumni and other friends of the university to ask for donations.
“The student callers stay pretty busy,” Moore said. “They probably call 150-200 people a night in (a) three-and-a-half hour timespan.”
The fifth year senior from Knoxville, Tenn. has been working for Phonathon since 2010 and helps monitor the calling floor – sometimes helping make calls himself – hoping to find someone who is willing to make a donation.
When not making calls, he is listening in on other calls being made, making sure the right procedure is followed by the callers and helping to avoid any potential conflicts.
“I manage the 21 callers that are here every night,” Moore said. “There’s a lot of stuff that we do behind the scenes, too, that the callers don’t know about, like putting pledges through, verifying credit cards and making sure we have the correct addresses.”
As a three-year veteran, Moore said he has really enjoyed working at Phonathon. With the amount of calls he's made over the years, he said many people recognize his voice and are happy to donate.
Since he started working, he has helped bring many donations to the university, but one of his biggest accomplishments would be his first semester working at Phonathon.
“When I was a caller during my first semester here, I raised almost $30,000 myself,” Moore said. “That was pretty big for me.”
At first, Moore said, it can be a little discouraging, but the more calls you make, the easier it gets. Moore attributes his success as a caller and supervisor to his experience.
“It can be a tough job, because you’re talking to someone you don’t know and asking for money,” he said. “As you call more often, you pick up on little queues that can help make you a better caller. Then, before too long, you become friends with everybody."
The Knoxville native also joked that his southern accent has sometimes helped earn donations in certain cases.
“I remember one time I talked to an elderly lady who said she doesn’t like to donate to CMU because they already took so much of her money,” Moore said. “But she told me she liked my accent and that she would donate $25 if I would talk more.”
Moore and the other employees at Phonathon are responsible for bringing in many donations to CMU. The best year for Phonathon came in 2009, when it brought in $942,373.10. Since then, the amount has been declining.
In 2010, Phonathon brought in $891,730. In 2011, the number declined further to $812,730. The most past two years raised $662,879 and $650,489, respectively.
According to Assistant Director of Annual Giving Jaime Griffis, this decline results from a number of reasons.
One major cause for the decline is the shrinking number of landline phones in favor of cell phone usage.
“This has caused a dramatic increase in our disconnect rate, from 22 percent in 2009 to 33 percent in 2013,” Griffis said in an email. “We are currently trying to capture more cell phone numbers this year to contact alumni.”
In addition to a poor economy, Griffis also added that Phonathon is unable to reach some alumni and others are simply not answering their phones.
“In 2009 we contacted 53,757 alumni and friends and in 2013, even though we had more than 220,000 more attempts, 41,998 alumni and friends were contacted,” Griffis said. “This was a decline of more than 11,000 contacts, which has hindered our fundraising effort.”
To help make up for these lost donations, Phonathon has had to rely on other means to bring in donations. So far, they've seen positive results.
“Online giving increased from $59,328 in 2009 to $158,047,” Griffis said. “We have also focused on more campaign-specific projects, like the student emergency fund, to drive online gifts.”
Griffis said direct mail donations have also increased, and Phonathon is now receiving additional contributions through text messages.
Phonathon has also helped the admissions department.
Last Spring, on behalf of CMU admissions, Phonathon began calling prospective students to provide more information about the university and help them sign up for orientation dates.
“By contacting more than 2,100 students, we were able to impact enrollment by adding (around) 200 students, who were undecided, to the class of 2017, and we will continue to assist admissions in this area,” Griffis said.
With so many calls being made every night and throughout the semester, Moore said Phonathon is a busy, but fun place to work.
“This is my longest job I’ve ever held,” Moore said. “It’s a ton of fun. We play games all throughout the shifts. It also helps being a supervisor, because I can walk around the floor and talk to everybody. It’s kind of like a place where you work with all your best friends.”