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Secrets of the Phonathon
Do you think it's easy to call up a stranger and ask for money?
Rachel Keller photo by Mark Corliss
Rachel Keller
At least once a year, a fresh-voiced Keene State College student calls you, chats for a while, and asks you for a contribution to support the KSC Fund. Most student callers are work-study or scholarship students, and they come from majors across the curriculum – from education to biology to theatre.

What's it like to call up a perfect stranger and politely ask them for money? Here's what Rachel Keller, a Keene State College senior and a four-year phonathon veteran, has to say about being a member of the KSC Fund phonathon team. Rachel is completing a double major in communication and journalism and a minor in women's studies. Perhaps you've already met her – or you'd recognize her voice.

There must be easier jobs on campus than making calls to ask people for money. What attracted you to the phonathon program?
The flexible hours and the fact that it was an on-campus job were both appealing to me. However, the largest draw, as a communication major, was the opportunity to connect with alumni on the phone and talk to them about their experiences at Keene State and living in Keene. I find it very easy to talk to people!

How did you feel when you were about to make your first call?
Very nervous! I went over my script many times. I remember that the room was very quiet, and we were all waiting for someone else to make the first call. When I finally got up the nerve to call, of course no one answered. It took about 15 calls to finally reach someone.

Do you still use that script?
We were all given a script during training, but we were encouraged to rewrite it in our own words to make it more personal. I started rewriting parts of the script and changed more and more until eventually I rewrote the whole thing. I like everything to be neat and orderly. Once I got better at calling, I used the script less and less. There are certain points you always want to highlight, but it can be better to go with the flow of the conversation.

How do you make a persuasive case for support?
I appeal to their interest in Keene State College. I have had a really wonderful time at Keene State, and I convey that to whomever I am talking to. I start off by telling the person I am calling about the great experiences I have had at Keene State, and they usually join in with their great experiences, and we build rapport.

Calls from strangers aren't universally welcomed. Do you ever get a cranky response?
Of course, I do. And sometimes I can't blame them because we may call at a difficult time. Working for the phonathon has made me more empathetic to people who call me – I try to be much nicer to people on the phone. You don't need to follow through with the whole call, but it is better to politely say you aren't interested instead of simply hanging up. Thankfully, though, most people I call are interested to hear what has been happening at their alma mater and really enjoy talking about their college days.

Will you be a faithful KSC Fund phonathon contributor after you graduate?
Absolutely! However, I will make the caller do the whole spiel before I give my gift. In my first year out of college it may not be more than $15, but it is important for everyone to give back to Keene State. Actually, I can't wait to receive that first phone call!

Donations to the KSC Fund may also be made online. The KSC Fund raises about $200,000 annually. The Alumni Unrestricted Fund supports a variety of alumni programs from reunions and homecoming to student projects and faculty development. Gifts may also be made to a designated area on campus, such as the new Alumni Center or to specific scholarships.

Interview by Genny Alexander, KSC Development Office. As the annual funds coordinator, part of Genny's job is to recruit and train the phonathon team.

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