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Thriving Phonathon Raises Nearly a Million


June 29, 2005

DELAWARE, OHIO -- Ohio Wesleyan's Phonathon raised a record total of 971,221 dollars this year in gifts and pledges, surpassing the projected goal of 842,000 and last year's total of 778,577. The impressive sum comes from generous donors, hard working student callers, and Candace Ott, Associate Director of Annual Giving and overseer of the entire phonathon program.

Run through Annual Giving, the phonathon employs students who call OWU alumni, relatives and friends, requesting gifts and pledges for the university's annual operating budget. Each year, the phonathon sets a goal to increase funds by at least 6 percent of the last year's total. For the past seven years, the phonathon has increased their total funds and average gifts, but this year's dramatic increase is unique.

Ott has directed the program since she came to OWU in October 2003 just after graduating from The Ohio State University. A former student caller for a similar program at OSU, Ott says she loves what she does, and admires the close knit OWU community that keeps the alumni interested in giving back.

"It's vastly different from my college experience," Ott says. "Sometimes, especially during alumni weekend I become a little jealous of the class camaraderie. It is not out of the ordinary for an OWU student or alum to not only know everyone in their class but others who were in the class before or after them."

Ott attributes much of this year's success to the phonathon's relocation, from the crowded basement of the Mowry Alumni Center to the spacious Stewart Annex on Sandusky Street. Initiated by Ott in August 2004, the move allowed the phonathon to hire more student callers this year, in addition to the 80 percent of employees who returned from the year before.

"We have a lot more space to move around," Ott says. "We can hold conversations with 16 other people talking at the same time."

Ott tries to make the atmosphere fun for students and donors, using incentives to motivate the students, while teaching them how to keep good rapport with the potential donors on the other line.

"Many times, students are the only connection that a person has with the school," Ott says. "We want to make sure it's a good one."

Next year, a new phone system, coming to OWU Spring of '06, will allow supervisors to monitor both sides of a phone call to better evaluate calls. The new phones will also provide useful statistics, such as a call's average length, the number of calls made per student, or per night.

The upcoming innovations promise to strengthen a program that Ott has already made quite strong.

"It's the OWU spirit that makes my job so enjoyable and unforgettable," Ott says. "Ohio Wesleyan alumni really believe in their alma mater and they have strong ties with the University that are shown through time, means, and memories."