How does the URI Student Phone-a-thon Program make an impact? Besides raising more than $235,000 in annual fund donations for colleges and programs across campus, it helps students learn about philanthropy and provides a way for alumni to stay connected with URI.
If your phone rings in the evening anytime between October and April, it could very well be a URI student calling. It might even be April!
April Mierez-Comissiong entered her freshman year in 2011 knowing she wanted to commit herself to URI by getting out of her comfort zone and experiencing new things. That is exactly what she got when she found the URI Student Phone-a-thon Program.
“I participated in one of the first phone-a-thon calling programs at URI in the late 1960s, so I enjoy speaking with the student callers. I think a college education is so valuable, and I try to do what I can to help defray the expenses for college students and support the University at the same time.“
—Judith LaSalle Prior ’67
“I often look back on my experiences, some 40 years ago, and see how challenging but rewarding they were. I donate to the Fund for URI because I want to see other high school graduates have this type of opportunity. I especially like the phone-a-thon because I enjoy talking to the current URI students. Thank you, URI.“
—Bruce M. Vinokur ’72
“I enjoy speaking with students, and I support the University because I received an excellent education.“
—Thomas R. Evans ’87
“I think it’s exciting be able to give back to URI, a place where I had a lot of great memories, the place where I met my wife, and a place that gave me a great education.“
—Erik Wilcox ’07
How you can help
Please take our calls, especially if you see “Go Rhody” on your caller ID! And, fulfill your Phone-a-thon pledges by giving online at urifoundation.org.
The program plays an important role in the University’s annual giving program, the Fund for URI. Thirty current URI students, including April, are employed by the program, which reaches out to more than 50,000 alumni, parents, and friends each year in an effort to communicate current information about URI while also seeking vital support for the Fund for URI.
April still remembers her first day as a caller, when she received her training, got her instructions, and was told to call as many alumni as she could. “My first call was nerve-racking,” said April. “But after a few calls I realized it was more than just asking people for money.” The more calls April made, the more comfortable she felt; conversations between her and alumni flowed more naturally as soon as she realized that it’s not all about asking for donations, but a chance for students and alumni to interact. “The alumni are really sincere and love giving back [to the school],” said April, reminiscing about the great conversations she has had in the past. “They love sharing fun and inspiring stories about their time on campus.”
Along with working part-time at the student calling center here on campus, April, who is from Providence, enjoys traveling and spending time with her family while pursuing a degree in nursing. She especially enjoys talking with the nursing alums. “They offer a lot of advice,” she says. She appreciates the opportunity to talk to post-graduate students in her major as well, often asking them questions about how they got to where they are in their field today. “Honestly,” said April, “everyone is so nice and so helpful.”
April has a fantastic track record, citing that she normally calls around 200 people per three-hour shift. She estimates that around half of the people she gets in touch with end up making donations. Many of the remaining alumni note that they already have given or commit to giving in the future. April loves hearing about the alums’ time here at URI, especially when she learns that some graduated many decades ago. She enjoys quizzing them about what campus was like when they were students and about the activities that took place here before she was even born! April and all the student callers in the program truly engage in conversations with the alumni by building off of things the alumni say. “They ask if certain professors are still around, and what courses I’m taking,” says April. “It ends up being a really great conversation, and I think it makes alumni feel good about their alma mater.”
Even though making 200 calls every shift seems like a daunting task, April fondly remembers her conversations with the alumni. She spoke of a woman who recently answered from her retirement home “with a great mountain view,” enthusiastic to talk to a URI student. April said, “She was thrilled to talk to me!” She, like April, was a nursing major, but during wartime. “We shared stories, laughed and joked for a while.” In the end, the woman renewed her support to the Fund for URI.
“Alumni make me realize how rewarding working with the Phone-a-thon is. It’s a good feeling to know that graduates out there truly love URI and have such fond memories of their time here. I’m just glad to be a part of the conversation.”
According to the URI Foundation, which administers this and all fundraising activities on the University’s behalf, the student phone-a-thon program raised more than $235,000 during the last fiscal year, a 12% increase over the previous year. Students were also able to increase overall participation by 26%, a testament to the hard work of the student callers and the generosity of URI alumni and parents.
—Alexandra Baccari, Class of 2014, QuadAngles student intern