Phonathon moving forward with record-setting success under KSU’s direction

(Nov. 15, 2018) Phonathon, which has been a successful fundraising and informative program of Kennesaw State University for many years, is operating under a new structure. Starting with the 2018-19 academic year, the calling of Kennesaw State alumni and friends is completely operated by KSU’s Office of Alumni Relations and Annual Giving.

“Since we’re handling it in-house, I’ve hired a manager to run the Phonathon program,” said Anna McGee-Blackburn, the university’s director of annual giving. “Since he reports to me, we are able to adjust and adapt as needed. We’ve made numerous changes based on feedback from alumni.”

Andrew Swink was hired to serve in the new position of Phonathon supervisor and began work at Kennesaw State in early August. He is in charge of student workers, representing both the Kennesaw and Marietta campuses, who make telephone calls to alumni and friends of the university from 5-8:30 p.m. on weekdays and 12-7 p.m. on Sundays from a revamped Phonathon Center on the fourth floor at Town Point. 

“There's a few things I love about being supervisor, one is the fact that I get to help be an ambassador to KSU and see the university grow and compete with the other universities in Georgia,” Swink said. “Second, I get to be around the students and be a mentor and watch them grow into the people that they want to be. Last, a part of my job is to serve as an advisor for the Student Philanthropy Council, and I love giving back to causes that I truly believe in and volunteering for service projects around Kennesaw. 

Phonathon Caller“We have a dynamic group of callers with so many backgrounds. It is very exciting to get to know each and every one of them.”

Phonathon’s main objective is to engage and update alumni, along with increase financial gifts to KSU. Student callers’ primary ask is for support of the Annual Fund and general scholarships, but donations also are accepted to other areas of need. 

So far, McGee-Blackburn and Swink are very happy with how things are going under the new system. They are already experiencing the benefits of running KSU Phonathon.

“We felt it would be in the best interests of our student callers and our alumni population if KSU Phonathon became directly connected to KSU,” McGee-Blackburn said. “We have incorporated KSU history into our callers’ training. This has helped them to feel better prepared to answer questions and carry on conversations with our alumni.”

This year’s student callers provide information on alumni benefits, campus events and other happenings associated with Kennesaw State. The students also are really enjoying the new Phonathon format under McGee-Blackburn and Swink.

One of those students, Ashley Chamlee, is in her second year of working Phonathon at KSU and also spent time as a freshman doing the same at another university from which she transferred. Chamlee is a junior from Calhoun, Georgia, who is majoring in political science.

Ashley Chamblee“KSU Phonathon is thriving,” Chamlee said. “This year, we have a great new manager and staff who is excited about helping the school. We have a friendly atmosphere and we all get along well.

“My favorite thing about being a student caller for KSU Phonathon is the connections I have been able to make. Within the staff I have made a lot of friends who I spend time with even outside of work. Phonathon is a great way to make personal and professional connections. Phonathon is also a great way to develop better communication skills.”

Another student, Kathleen Smith, has been a Phonathon caller at Kennesaw State since January 2018. Smith is a sophomore finance major from Kingston, Jamaica. She echoes some of Chamlee’s thoughts.

“It’s way more laid back (this year) in the sense that even though we have only been calling for a little over a month, we have a little Phonathon family here,” Smith said. “It’s definitely a job that I look forward to coming to every day.

“My favorite part of this job is definitely hearing about alumni experiences while they were at KSU or SPSU. It really highlights how much the campus has grown and the different degree options that were available then compared to now. I also love hearing about how successful our alumni members are in their fields today.”

At each $25,000 mark raised, students are rewarded. Callers reached their first $25,000 plateau of 2018-19 on Sept. 26 and all of them received a ticket to the North Georgia State Fair. 

“They’re a very close group and all 14 planned to go (to the fair) together,” McGee-Blackburn said.

At the fair, a beta fish was won that has been named Poly. The fish lives in the Phonathon Center and serves as a mascot for KSU Phonathon, Swink stated.

More recently, McGee-Blackburn said that a couple of Phonathon records were set at Kennesaw State. On Sunday, Oct. 28, Phonathon raised $13,775, which is its all-time best night, while one student brought in more than $11,000, establishing the highest grossing total by a single caller in one evening. 

Phonathon CallersAccording to McGee-Blackburn, KSU Phonathon has raised almost $3 million since 2012. Now that it is completely controlled by Kennesaw State, she is hoping for even more success this year and in the future as stronger relationships are established with alumni and friends of the university. 

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