Fordham Fund Phonathon Center Connects Students with Alumni, Parents, and Friends Who Share a Passion for the University
by Jennifer Spencer
Brittany Poe may be studying in New York City, but she drew on her Southern roots during a recent shift at the Fordham Fund Phonathon Center, where she works as a part-time fundraiser, reaching out to Fordham alumni, parents, and friends.
Students speak to parents on a recent shift at the Fordham Fund Phonathon Center.
A few minutes into a call with the father of a Fordham student, Poe learned that he is from her home state of North Carolina. Within seconds, she subconsciously slipped into a faint Southern drawl, answering with a few "yessirs" and plenty of down-home charm.
Poe is one of the dozens of student fundraisers at the Phonathon Center. Students reach out to alumni, parents, and friends of the University to help Fordham update contact information and solicit contributions to the Fordham Fund, unrestricted funds that Fordham can apply to needs that arise anywhere in the University.
Michelle Garland, program manager of the Phonathon, said students began calling from the new center in O'Hare Hall on Oct. 15. Just 10 days into calling, students had completed more than 1,600 calls.
Jillian Pellegrini, a senior at Fordham College at Rose Hill, said talking with alumni has given her a deeper understanding of the University's history. She learned about Fordham's days in lower Manhattan by speaking with an alumnus who navigated Vietnam War protests on his way to class at 302 Broadway in the 1960s, shortly before Fordham College at Lincoln Center moved into its current home in the Lowenstein Center.
"I think it would be interesting to see Fordham back then," Pellegrini said. "We always tell alumni all the things that have changed, and it's so much. I've only been here since 2009, and already so many things have changed," she said.
Pellegrini said having a well-paid on-campus job has been a huge help to her. As she prepares to graduate with a degree in American Studies and considers spending a year with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, every dollar helps.
Pellegrini, the oldest of three children, said that without the financial support she is now helping to raise, she would not have been able to pursue her dream of attending college in New York City.
Jillian Pellegrini, a part-time fundraiser, said parents enjoy talking about their students' Fordham experiences.
"I am lucky enough that this kind of support has made my education at Fordham possible," she said.
On a recent night, Pellegrini called parents to invite them to contribute to the Parent Fund. When she asked one Fordham father how his daughter was enjoying her sophomore year, he replied, "Well, she's sitting across the room from you. You should ask her!"
Pellegrini was excited to let her colleague know that she had met her dad via the phone—and that he made a gift.
Pellegrini said she was initially nervous about calling parents, as she recognizes that they are already investing in their children's tuition, but she said that the enthusiasm of Fordham students seems to be infectious.
"They love talking about their kids. Their students love Fordham, which makes them a little more inclined to give to the Parent Fund," she said.
Fully staffed, the center will employ 45 to 50 Fordham students and place up to 1,200 calls each week.
Garland said she is actively recruiting more students who are passionate about Fordham and great conversationalists. So far, it sounds like she's on the right track.
"I've had some great, long conversations with alumni who love talking about Fordham," Pellegrini said. "I've learned a lot."
Students interested in working for the Fordham Phonathon Center, should contact program manager Michelle Garland.