Time for last call, QTS

Every year, Queen’s Telefundraising Services (QTS) calls thousands of Queen’s alumni, eliciting donations that go primarily towards services such as libraries, athletics and scholarships. QTS has a database of about 80,000 alumni and is aiming to raise $700,000 for the Annual Fund this year, which goes towards University operations.

The service employs Queen’s students, who work with a script and aim to establish a rapport with alumni. Conversations are often steered towards alumni’s past extracurricular activities and involvements at Queen’s as the student records the information in the database. The information is used to create custom call lists for telefundraisers who may have similar experiences.

If the University wants its alumni to donate, it needs to establish a connection involving more than a phone call asking for money. The only relationship some former Queen’s students maintain with their alma mater is through continual solicitation of funds. Homecoming and similar events help, but the University should do more to keep in touch with students who spent several years here, not to mention thousands of dollars.

A database used to record alumni interests could do more than help specialize fundraising tactics. Sending alumni updates on sports teams or clubs would do more to engage alumni than a telefundraiser’s anecdote about how he or she almost went to a Queen’s football game but decided it was too far.

QTS’s approach is nothing short of relentless—calling parents with children still at Queen’s is overkill and needs to stop. It’s equally useless to call recent graduates, many of whom are more worried about paying off debt than increasing it through donations.

The best way for Queen’s to raise money from alumni is to create an experience that will makes students want to give back when they leave. If students reflect fondly on their years at the University, they will be inclined to return the favour. But if all they remember is how much they were paying, they won’t feel inclined to whip out their wallet.

Gifts and pledges count for five to six per cent of the University’s annual operating budget—a number Vice-Principal (Advancement) David Mitchell hopes to increase to 10 per cent in the next few years. If the University’s serious about upping its donations, it’s time to stop updating their database and start updating their approach.

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