Phonathon Dials Up Support, Memories

Phonathon Dials Up Support, Memories

Five nights a week, in a windowless room in the Old Gym, a few dozen students make phone calls to Creighton alumni across the country and help raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for the University.

In the world of higher ed, phone programs are struggling. Some are calling them quits altogether.

Yet Creighton Phonathon is doing better than ever. For four consecutive years, the program has increased the amount of funds it’s raised for the University. This year, Phonathon hopes to meet its goal of $625,000 in annual donations — with thousands of individual gifts going toward scholarships, classroom essentials and more.

The secret to Creighton Phonathon’s success is the tremendous student callers, says Mason Harmon, assistant director of Annual and Student Giving, and the director of Creighton Phonathon.

“There’s a script for their calls, but they make that script their own,” Harmon says. “They tell their story, and they connect with alumni. They’re a great group.”

Creighton magazine spoke with a few student callers about their time at Phonathon and the importance of giving back to the University.

How did your first few Phonathon calls go?

Davis Sunderland, sophomore, Heider College of Business, active in Greek life: My first call I ever made as a Phonathon caller, I was so nervous that I couldn’t even read the words in front of me. I was talking to a woman, and I just hesitated and paused every few words. And then I heard a guy on the other line ask his wife, “Honey, who is it?” And she said, “I think it’s just a robot.” And she hung up on me. (Laughs) It was that bad. But after a month, I was off script and talking about my own experience.

What are the best calls you’ve had?

Ellie Rommelfanger, junior sociology major, regular volunteer for the Schlegel Center for Service and Justice: One of my favorite calls was with an alumna who had these amazing stories about the way things used to be and what campus used to look like. She lives down in Arizona and hasn’t been able to come to a lot of alumni programs because she’s older, and it’s hard for her to travel. But she was so excited to share her memories with me and hear about my experiences.

Patrick Fenner, senior theology major, with plans to become a Jesuit: I called this guy, and he was on a four-hour drive, and he was happy to talk. We had a really good conversation and talked about how he was invested in Creighton. At the end of the call, he made a monetary pledge to the University, and then he was like, “What if I also threw in a car?” He owns a car dealership and gave Creighton a car to auction off. That one caught me off guard.

Do you feel like working at Phonathon changes your views on giving?

Kiara Mills, sophomore, Heider College of Business, softball team member: Now that I’m part of Phonathon, I’m starting to understand how it all works, how things are paid for. It makes me not only want to tell more people about the importance of giving but also to give what I can to these programs and parts of campus. And it’s made me more into giving in general.