Dec. 8, 2014Vol. 45, Issue 3

Dialing for Dollars

Student employees of the Chico State Calling Center in Sapp Hall with President Paul Zingg, middle, during his recent visit.

They go by such names as “Big Money” and “Lil’ Smokey,” “Flex” and “Flashy,” “Drillbit” and “Pie-ro,” “Jelly” and “Bearcat.”

They are the answer to the trivia question: Who last worked up in the dome of Kendall Hall? (Yes, the space above the rotunda and behind the stained glass window with the Chico State logo.)

They now occupy the basement of Sapp Hall, not quite as iconic a home as the upper reaches of Kendall, but the location of their greatest success.

They come from all over California: Santa Barbara, San Rafael, Sacramento, Woodland, Penryn, Palmdale, Mountain View, and Menifee.

They major in business administration, marketing, business information systems, biology, chemistry, psychology, music, and sociology.

They work seven shifts, six days a week, taking off only for Thanksgiving, the December holidays, and spring break. Yes, that means they work in the summer and through intersession.

These are the current students who power the Chico State Calling Center. They are the latest in a long line of students, who, for nearly 20 years, have been dialing for dollars, contacting our alumni, parents, and friends and generating the largest source of support for the Chico State Fund in the process. Their work has resulted in well over $7 million contributed and 110,000 gift pledges.

In the 2013–2014 fiscal year alone, the University recorded 11,500 gifts. Ninety percent of these donors were moved to make a gift through a conversation with one of our calling center students. Those students had about 40,000 such conversations with the prospective donors which their calls reached.

“We are successful for one reason: We have the best calling crew in the system.” – Allen Lunde, Assistant Director, University Advancement Services

And there are legends among them. Like Andrew “Scooter” Corsaro, who raised a record $12,000 in gift pledges for the University in a single day. And all members of the team—whose real names are Jennifer Kelly, Margaret Stratton, Desirey Ortiz, Brenda Guiterrez, Corinne Peterson, Taylor Barrett, Jessica Ewton, and Steven Loya, among others—who set a record this October bringing in more than $200,000 in cash pledges to the University. And the well-timed call that reached a donor on his cell phone as he was getting off a plane to start his vacation in Hawaii. That donor made a personal gift of $5,000, which his employer matched for a total gift of $10,000. The moral of this story? Reach people when they are in a good mood.

Managing all of these ringing phones, our own “lord of the rings” so to speak, is University Advancement Services Assistant Director Allen Lunde. Lunde has been running our phone-a-thon for 15 years, ever since he had the bright idea to convert a calling center doing occasional institutional research into a full-time fundraising operation. Although he had no previous fundraising experience, Lunde was rewarded for his idea by being put in charge of the program. But he was a Chico State grad (psychology), believed in team building, loved working with students, and was motivated by the challenge of developing the best calling center in the CSU. All of these elements connect and provide him with perspective on what has been achieved.

“We are successful for one reason,” Lunde emphasizes. “We have the best calling crew in the system. My job is simple: All I have to do is give them the tools they need to be successful. We are much more than a team, we are a family. I am very lucky these students have chosen to take on this challenge. We are successful because these students want to be successful. They want to be of use to their University and their fellow students. They think of this as much more than a job.”

Such sentiments are echoed by the students. Says Jessica “Flashy” Ewton, a student supervisor who has worked in the center for five years: “The one constant throughout my college career has been the calling center, providing me with the confidence and support I needed to successfully complete my degree. Not only did the calling center make it possible for me to be the first in my family to graduate from college, it has sparked my passion for being a part of something bigger than myself.” Upon graduating this spring with a major in psychology, “Flashy” intends to pursue a career in advancement so that she can continue to raise funds and create opportunities for students like herself.

“I get to make others feel the passion I feel for Chico State,” says Brenda “Big Money” Gutierrez, a junior from Santa Barbara majoring in sociology. And just as important, she gets “to be surrounded by such talented, beautiful, and passionate people at each and every shift.”

And Taylor “Drillbit” Barrett, a calling center student supervisor and business marketing major from Sacramento who has worked in the center for two-and-a-half years: “Being able to motivate callers to be the best student fundraisers they can be is one of the things I am most proud of throughout my college career. We truly pride ourselves on being a family, and I think that makes us better callers, better students, and better people.”

How good is that?!

Thank you, Allen Lunde, “Flashy,” “Big Money,” “Drillbit,” and all of the members of your team. We benefit from your hard work and great examples every day.

And, by the way, Lunde and the students invite visitors to the center anytime. Just give him a call. But don’t get in the way: There is hard work going on there for Chico State!

Paul J. Zingg, President 

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Class of 3 Million

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