NMU Call Center Returns
The former mail services sorting area on the first floor of Cohodas Hall has been transformed into a call center for the NMU Foundation’s phone-a-thon fundraiser. This marks the return of a campus-based center with NMU students reaching out to alumni. For the previous five years, the function had been handled offsite by RuffaloCODY, a strategic fundraising software and services vendor.
“Based on the fundraising numbers and feedback from alumni, it became clear that NMU students making personal calls to alumni have a greater result than a stranger with no NMU connection making the call,” said Andrew Hill (Foundation). “We never planned to have it outsourced permanently—it was an option explored to reduce the time and cost required to complete a phone campaign so we could catch up on things we weren’t able to do like direct mail. In looking at the numbers over those five years, they were static at best and Robyn (Stille) and I began to see the advantages of bringing back a call center on campus, but for a shorter time frame. The Foundation board was supportive of that.”
Instead of a year-round presence, the center will operate a seven-week program from February-April and again from September-November. A RuffaloCODY employee serves as the call center manager during those periods and NMU continues to use the company’s software. Stille said it is typical for colleges and universities to outsource some or all of their phone-a-thon campaigns.
“A shortened phone-a-thon may offer the best bang for our buck,” she said. “It’s concentrated, which saves on costs, and it offers a better balance in terms of frequency. People don’t like it when you call too much. However, alumni do appreciate talking to students and finding out what has changed on campus, what’s happening in their former departments or maybe just take a stroll down memory lane by sharing their own stories. If alumni don’t feel engaged, they’re less likely to support the university. We will reevaluate this summer to see how it worked to bring back the center and to have a seven-week schedule.”
Hill said the NMU Foundation now has all of the pieces of a “true” annual giving program: a campus call center, direct mail, an online presence and more alumni events to strengthen their connection to their alma mater.