|Red & Black Society member Megan Lesko
'06 talks to alumni while raising funds for the Wesleyan Annual Fund for
Excellence. Pictured below is Allie Joe, '05 and Joshua Atwood '08. Lesko and Joe are both student
managers for the society.
Student Society Key Player for Wesleyan's Excellence
|Emily Frost ’06
knows it takes courage to call and speak with strangers. As a member of
Wesleyan’s Red & Black Society, she is learning how to transform what could
be an awkward conversation into a more meaningful exchange.
Frost is among 60 Red & Black Society members who call alumni and parents
requesting gifts to Wesleyan through the Wesleyan Annual Fund for Excellence
(WAFE), which defrays costs not covered by tuition and income from the
university’s endowment. This year, students will help Wesleyan to meet
critical goals of $12 million in current-use money. Along with student
calling, personal solicitations by University Relations staff members,
volunteer solicitations from phonathons, homes and offices and mailings
round out Wesleyan’s fundraising efforts.
Students’ tuition and fees cover approximately 70 percent of the actual cost
of educating each student. The Wesleyan Annual Fund for Excellence supports
financial aid, faculty salaries, campus improvements, library resources, the
arts, athletics and technology.
“Fundraising really improves one's ability to communicate and relate to many
different individuals,” Frost says. “The Red & Black Society provides an
excellent opportunity for me to make connections with past Wesleyan students
and learn from them.”
Regan Schubel ‘01, assistant director of the Annual Fund, says about 200
students apply and are trained to be Red & Black callers every year.
Selected students undergo 10 hours of intensive training before making any
calls to alumni or parents.
Most calls, Schubel says, average 10 minutes. First, students update alumni
contact information, then spend a few minutes talking about campus, new
buildings, projects and programs, and educating alumni about recent Wesleyan
events. The callers answer alumni questions and often discuss issues related
to life after Wesleyan, or Wesleyan memories. The student explains the
benefits of giving and requests a gift or pledge at the end of the
The Red & Black callers work the entire fiscal year, from the start of fall
semester until June 30. During the 2004-05 academic year, Red & Black
callers raised $513,511 from 6,094 alumni and parent donors.
“Students are excited about communicating with alumni, and the alumni enjoy
sharing their Wesleyan memories with the students,” Schubel says. “It’s a
mutually beneficial situation.”
Mosah Fernandez-Goodman ’04, associate director of the Annual Fund, spent
three years as a student caller before becoming the program’s manager after
graduating. He recommends that students interested in sales, business or
fundraising join the society.
“We use a real-world networking approach, and students gain valuable
experience by working here,” Fernandez-Goodman says. “It’s a good job to
have while they’re in college.”
Frost, who plans to pursue broadcast journalism after graduating, says the
experience has taught her how to speak more eloquently in conversations. She
also enjoys chatting with alumni, and learning about their career paths and
other post-Wesleyan experiences.
“Alumni are friendly, have interesting personalities, and most share my love
for Wesleyan,” Frost says. “I can always find a way to relate to alumni. I
like speaking with recent alumni the best, because I seek their advice on
the transition from Wesleyan.”
The students, who come from many states and several countries, work two to
three evening sessions, Sunday through Thursday, each week. For their work,
students earn an hourly wage and bonuses, along with pizza and snacks.
Making a connection is the most difficult part about calling alumni and
parents. Some nights, a student may dial 300 numbers without one answer.
Other nights, they may reach 15 alumni or parents and receive gifts from
each. The record number of gifts solicited by a single caller in one night
is 30, and 125 in one night as a program, Fernandez-Goodman says.
“We want the alumni to know that the students will be calling and to please
answer their phones,” Fernandez-Goodman says.
The Red & Black students make calls from the WAFE office on Mt. Vernon Street.
Any student interested in becoming a Red & Black Society member should
contact Regan Schubel ‘01 at 860-685-2253 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Olivia Bartlett, Wesleyan Connection editor