Discourse / Letters / October 13, 2010

Letter to the Editor: Phonathon: Setting the record straight

We are three Phonathon callers who would like to set the record straight in response to the article “Program Reviews Mixed” by Anna Meier, which appeared on the front page of last week’s TKS. We feel that the Phonathon program was misrepresented in some respects.

First off, the author, Anna Meier, actually worked Phonathon during fall term of last year. She reportedly quit because she did not approve of our approach to calling and was dissatisfied with the job. If her article had been written at least partially autobiographically, this would not be a problem. However, the article is presented as impartial reporting, which most front-page articles are. Writers following sound journalistic principles should disclose the fact that they used to work for the program they were reporting on if they deemed it appropriate even to write the article at all.

A substantial portion of the article was devoted to the fact that Knox has partnered with the fundraising company RuffaloCODY to conduct Phonathon. To clarify, RuffaloCODY supplies Knox with computer equipment to make and process calls as well as a manager to train callers and run shifts. Their strategy does involve asking alumni for a gift multiple times, which is because alumni who are going to give will typically name their own amount after two or three asks. The fact that the lowest asking level is $52 does not mean that it is the lowest amount we accept and it does not preclude the possibility that alumni will make smaller donations than that.

It also bears mention that we are not reciting a script during our phone calls. New callers are encouraged to stick to it until they become comfortable conducting themselves on the phone, but people can tell when they are being read to instead of spoken with. We each find a way to make calls that will be comfortable for both our alumni and ourselves.

Before RuffaloCODY was partnered with Knox, Phonathon raised $40,000 under Brian Gawor, who eventually contacted RuffaloCODY. Upon working with RuffaloCODY for several years, we see that in less than four weeks of calling, students have met and raised their goal multiple times, putting us just under $500,000 in four weeks. It would be detrimental to every student at Knox to overlook this huge success and deem RuffaloCODY’s tactics to be overly aggressive. It would be in Knox’s best interests to maintain a close relationship with RuffaloCODY for many years to come. Knox’s and RuffaloCODY’s huge success this year is exciting! Callers and alumni alike are proud to provide Knox students with the essential ingredients for success.

Phonathon seems to have a sort of stigma attached to it and we fear the article published in last week’s TKS will make it worse. Just to clear the air, we do not deceive anyone when we call. Almost every alumnus who picks up the phone is aware that we are going to ask him or her for money, but many of them enjoy having a conversation with us anyway. They reminisce about their time at the school, frequently ask us to talk about our experience at Knox and even offer advice. We also are not taking money away from anyone. We can’t exactly reach through the phone and make a grab for somebody’s wallet. All the gifts we receive are just that: gifts given willingly to support the college.

Last year we raised just over $500,000 dollars, which averages to over $350 for each Knox student. This money keeps the school running and is an integral part of our financial aid system, upon which over 69 percent of the student body relies. Since we face rising tuition and increasing student financial need, the money we raise will be more important than ever in the coming years.

We hope that you as fellow students will not view Phonathon as some sort of scam perpetrated against our alumni but as an essential program that keeps Knox running.

Jenny Linder

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