Anyone who has graduated from St. Kate’s knows the ominous feeling that grows as the clock ticks toward dinner time and the phone begins to ring. You look at the Caller ID and see St. Kate’s number and feel sinking regret that you ever let them know where to find you. You know the second that you pick up that phone, a chirpy voice will want to update your records, hear about your time at the school and ultimately try to convince you to give something back no matter how many times you say you just cannot afford to give right now.
For the past three years I have been the cheerful voice on the other end of the line, just one of many girls who work tirelessly for the telefund, a sub-department of the St. Kate’s Annual Fund, to bring in money that helps the university run smoothly. For most students, the Annual Fund is something that floats blissfully beyond anyone’s radar until they graduate. Often it seems like you barely have your diploma in hand, tassel still swinging, when the phones start ringing and the envelopes start showing up here and there in the mail.
After spending thousands of dollars on a top-notch education, people often wonder why we feel the need to call them, attributing our solicitation to grasping hands. However, tuition for the school only goes to a portion of the running costs of the university with the rest stemming from grants, investments and perhaps most importantly, the support of our generous alumnae.
And how do we get those contributions? Through calling!
Before I get too carried away, however, I should explain how the Annual Fund is unique. For those that don’t know, the Annual Fund is an account which holds unrestricted dollars contributed to the school. This means that a donation has no designation and so can be used for anything from, as we say in our calls, screwing in light bulbs to making sure everyone has the financial aid they need to succeed.
When I started calling for the telefund in the spring semester of my first year, all I was looking for was a job to make my bank account look a little less sad. But over the years I have really come to appreciate what the telefund accomplishes for the university and for the St. Kate’s community.
Some people are probably wondering why anyone would want to work at a place where they have to continually ask people for money. I am not going to lie to you readers, soliciting contributions can be hard; I’ve done it for three years and I still struggle with this sometimes. However, for the most part, the rewards of the job outweigh any discomfort.
Genuinely the best part of the job is hearing all the stories. When you call for the telefund, you have the opportunity of speaking with Katies from across the country who may have graduated anywhere between the 1930s and 2015. With every alumna we speak to, the callers ask to hear that Katie’s story: her major, the clubs she was a part of, where she lived and anything else they want to tell us. While this might seem like it would get boring, these renditions are my favorite part; they make me feel more a part of the St. Kate’s community than any other aspect. Whether I am listening to Katie from the 1960s talking about the “smokers” and the slides out of Derham Hall, or hearing fascinating stories about the Dolphins (the former synchronized swimming team), I feel tied to generations of women who have walked the halls and made memories in the spaces I traverse every day.
Development in itself is a rewarding path to follow. Christy Donovan, the Annual Fund Specialist here at St. Kate’s, cited the student-alumnae interactions as being the most eye-opening with regard to the benefits of working in her field.
“Specifically working here in the telefund, hearing students tell our alumnae that they would not be able to be at St. Kate’s without alumnae support really resonates with me,” Donovan said.
“Working on campus and directly with students, I have met some amazing, smart, young women. The idea that they might not have been here for me to meet without the work I do every day makes it all worthwhile.”
It is amazing to see how the St. Kate’s alumnae come together to help support a whole new generation of Katies. It makes me excited to be called after I graduate next year by some fledgling caller who is just starting out on her St. Kate’s journey.