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November 8, 2004
BY Eric Rangus
Hello, may I please speak to Mr. or Mrs. Emory Graduate? My name is Josephine Emory, and I’m a sophomore in Emory College. I am just calling for two reasons—one is to update our records. Do you still live at 1836 Lotsocash Lane, Beverly Hills, Calif., 90210?
Caller IDs are wonderful things. When that “Unavailable” pops up, it’s like a free pass to ignore the ringing telephone and the telemarketer lurking on the other end.
When one of the 130 students working for the Telefund calls an Emory alumnus—an annual occurrence for each graduate unless they specifically ask not to be contacted—“Emory University” flashes on the caller ID. That, hopefully, hurdles the barrier separating a welcome call from average telephone spam.
“There is a difference between telemarketing and telefunding,” said Floyd Bushey, director of the Telefund, a program in which undergraduates at Emory and Oxford call alumni to solicit donations to their alma mater. “Telemarketers are just trying to sell you that credit card, or mortgage or shoe polish. I have no connection to that person at all. However, with that person who is calling from Emory, there is an immediate connection.”
You graduated in 1980, correct? When was the last time you were able to visit campus? Some recent improvements include renovation of the P.E. Center and Candler Library. Well, I don’t want to take up too much of your time, but the second reason I’m calling is on behalf of the Annual Fund.
The Telefund was born in 1986 as an offshoot of the Annual Fund in the Office of Development and University Relations (DUR). The money raised by those programs provides Emory with its largest base of unrestricted support in areas such as the libraries, student programming, out-of-classroom education and curriculum enhancements. With students (guided by Bushey’s helping hand and positive attitude) providing the labor for the Telefund, it is perhaps Emory’s most personal form of development.
“The callers are ambassadors for Emory and Oxford,” said Bushey, adding that many alumni’s sole connection with current Emory students is through calls made by the Telefund. And it’s crucial that the students making those calls are ones who love Emory. “We give them scripts, but we teach them to make that script their own,” Bushey continued. “They follow guidelines—introduction, bond, make the ask, rebut rejections, thank donors—but they all have their own bonding style.”
I would love to live in California. I understand that both of you graduated from Emory. Does Mr. Graduate still work for Miramax Films as a technician?
The ability to hold a conversation is crucial, Bushey said. While fundraising is the reason for Telefund’s being, that’s not the only motivation behind its existence. Telefund students are trained to engage in meaningful conversations—to ask questions and listen to the answers. “Bond” may be a cold instruction in the Telefund’s 31-page manual, but actually making it happen is an art born of true sincerity.
In fiscal year 2004, the Telefund raised $890,000. In the first two months of FY05, 3,909 pledges brought in more than $355,000, nearly 20 percent ahead of last year’s pace. While big-money donors are certainly important to Emory, the Telefund’s grassroots efforts are no less crucial. Since so much of it is student run—Bushey is one of just two staff members guiding it—the Telefund also plays a major role in development of the undergraduates who work there.
“They are the reason we all have jobs,” said Bushey, who is as much a mentor to his 130 student employees as he is their boss. “Sometimes we all get caught up in our own little world, but I think it’s important that we have contact with students and get to know the people I like to call ‘Joe and Josephine Emory.’”
Many people think that Emory can only use large donations. But our main goal is actually 100 percent participation. Our participation rate is a major factor in the school’s national rankings. A gift of $25, or even $19.80 in honor of your graduation year, would be a great help.
Bushey first came to Emory in 1985 as an area director in Residence Life. He had earned a graduate degree in education from Elmira College in New York and spent two years working in residence life at a small college in Massachusetts before moving to Georgia. In 11 years with Residence Life, he lived in most every residence hall complex on campus—and loved every minute of it.
“My philosophy in Residence Life was that I didn’t want to spend 98 percent of my time working with the 2 percent of the students who were making trouble,” Bushey said. “I wanted to spend my time with that 98 percent who were trying to have a great experience.”
He left in 1996 to go home to upstate New York to help take care of his ailing father. He kept his ties to Emory, though, and the next year a friend of Bushey’s at the Annual Fund called to ask if he’d be interested in doing some part-time work. Bushey accepted, and soon the directorship of the Telefund opened up and he got the job. He is quick to credit his students for making the Telefund successful and even quicker to point out that he does not make calls himself—although Bushey has in the past, just so he can tell his students he did it. He even got a $100 pledge.
I understand that it might be difficult for you to get involved; our alumni who have been away from campus for several years may have lost contact with us.
Located in a small, nondescript brick house at the corner of Gatewood and North Gatewood roads, the Telefund is isolated. But Bushey makes a point to involve himself on campus. He generally will travel to other people’s offices for meetings, he’ll take his lunch at Cox Hall or the Dobbs Center food court, or he’ll drop in on his old friends in Residence Life. He has been a FAME staff leader for many years as well.
“I have a rule,” Bushey said. “If I have to say something in more than two paragraphs in an e-mail, I either call the person or talk to them face to face.”
Despite Telefund’s isolation, Bushey’s enthusiasm has been noticed by his DUR peers. Last month he received one of three “Spirit of Emory” awards, a division-wide honor that celebrates the accomplishments of DUR staff for their extracurricular contributions to the University. “I was shocked and surprised,” Bushey said. “People say they might expect things, but I never expected anything like that.”
Mrs. Graduate, I see that you have been a generous supporter in the past. We wanted to thank you for that and let you know how much it is appreciated by the students here.
“These students have an enthusiasm that keeps me going,” Bushey said. “It’s kind of clichéd or corny, but there is something exciting about being around people who are between 18 and 22 and who are independent for the first time. When I hire a freshman or talk to a FAME student, I always remember that they are four months removed from their high school prom. It’s wonderful to see how they grow so quickly. I feel very lucky.”
Bushey keeps close ties with his students, yet he also knows when to let them go. The hope is, of course (and this is the goal of the Telefund, too), that the ties with the alma mater and the people there always will remain.
“Society teaches us how to say hello really well, but it doesn’t teach us how to say goodbye,” Bushey said, harkening back to his Campus Life days when he co-directed a program with the Counseling Center’s Mark McLeod on just that subject. “I used to see my seniors, and they would be wondering if this was the last time they would be in Woodruff Library. I think I regretted this when I was in college; there were people who had an influence in my life—I thought I’d see them again—but I didn’t say what they meant to me before I left. So, I would teach students a little bit about how to say goodbye.
“They should make a list of the people who matter and tell them how much they meant,” he continued. “There can even be a certain object, even as small as a rock from Lullwater: ‘Keep this and remember forever.’”
Thank you so much for your pledge and for helping Emory once again. It’s been great talking to you. Good luck with that big Miramax moneymaking project. Have a great night!