Every year, John Brown University recruits students to work as callers for University Advancement’s call center to raising money for the Scholarship Fund. This year, callers are also raising money for the Campaign for the Next Century, the University’s new plan to improve campus and continue serving students. Callers are ordinary students, but they do extraordinary service for the student body.
This week the Threefold was privileged to speak to two callers. Warning: this job is not for the faint of heart.
Junior Mackenzie Rich has been a caller for two semesters. While in previous years, the call center had been a bit exclusive, this year Advancement changed the structure of calling campaigns. Rather than having a few callers throughout the semester, they were able to hire many callers for just a couple of week’s work.
Along with alumni, callers contact parents of current students and friends of the University. Rich found their stories intriguing and encouraging.
“You got to talk to people who have gone through JBU and were successful,” she said. “My favorite thing to ask people was if they met their spouses here and what it was like to meet them.”
Senior Trey Sanchez jumped into calling late on the recommendation of a friend. As an International Business major, he found the process of fundraising fascinating.
“It was (both) more lax and more efficient than I thought it would be,” he said. “How much money you raised depended on how many people you called and what type of people you called.”
At first, Sanchez reported being nervous, but he soon got used to being friendly to people he’d never met.
Asking for money directly is never easy, and both Sanchez and Rich faced difficulties.
“I’d have to be the assertive type of friendly,” said Sanchez. “Even if you have to be very forceful, you have to do it with a smile. Speak softly, but carry a big stick.”
“It’s a really humbling thing to ask for money,” said Rich.
As happens with such jobs, callers talk to people from all sorts of backgrounds, reach wrong numbers, get hung up on, and are asked questions they couldn’t answer.
Surprisingly common, said Rich, were questions about the University’s policy on evolution, but there were also people who were angry with individual professors and people who would have liked to give but were in difficult financial situations.
“Sometimes people legitimately didn’t have any money,” said Rich. “It was hard to do a second ask.”
“You have to know how to face rejection well, especially abrupt rudeness,” said Sanchez. “I was surprised by the rudeness of other Christians, especially when they just hang up.”
Even so, both students found their time incredibly rewarding. For Sanchez, it even led to contacts in Thailand, where he’ll be doing an internship. Besides that, though, Sanchez said it was good to help bolster the scholarship fund, and it was good practice for his marketing career in the future.
“It was a fulfilling feeling knowing that what I was doing a few hours a day was creating an income,” he said.
Though Rich didn’t quite make the connection that Sanchez did, she still found call center work gratifying.
“It’s good money, there’s good friendships, and they make it fun,” she said. “We should all try to be involved in some way. You’re getting that (scholarship) money. Wouldn’t the call center be an awesome way to get involved? Don’t you want to be a part of that process?”