It took more than 3,000 hours and close to 40,000 phone conversations with alumni. In the end, the student-operated York University Call Centre smashed its own fundraising record for supporting priority initiatives on campus.
Led by Mariya Yurukova, the centre’s manager, a total of 200 York students raised more than $500,000 during the 2013-2014 fiscal term. The amount nearly doubled the record from last year and more than doubled that from two years ago.
The secret to the team’s latest success, Yurukova says, comes down to one word.
“Enthusiasm – it drives this place,” she explains. “Many people think millennials don’t care, but they do. Not only are our students motivated to talk to alumni, we are getting more new donors who graduated within the last five years.”
For many York student callers, this is their first job. Each of their three-hour shifts begins with a 15-minute powwow session, during which the team supervisor hands out individual incentive cards with personal goals and inspirational comments such as, “Life is like a 10-speed bicycle. Most of us have gears we never use.”
Unlike a telemarketing job, Yurukova, a former student caller at another university, says the call centre is the biggest club students are a part of at York.
“They are approaching people who have York in common with them. They are interested in what alumni have to say about York and alumni are interested in hearing about what’s happening at York. Everyone wants to see York succeed,” she says. “Every day they come to work, they know they are making a difference.”
Introducing three student callers who have made a difference at York
Caller ID: Aaron Andrade
York profile: Second year, science in engineering; first of three brothers who goes to York
Talking point: “I enjoy hearing alumni reminisce about York’s diversity, the community feel of a large campus, the residence life and even the commute. My best experience was calling someone who said she had been waiting to get the call, and that she would love to donate before I could even finish saying where I was calling from. She also had some fantastic stories to share about her time at York and how she was involved in pioneering a specific program. Talking to alumni makes me feel proud to be a part of such an amazing school. I know I will want to support York after I graduate.”
Caller ID: Shehzil Puri
York profile: Fourth year, administrative studies; first girl in her immediate family to be sent abroad to study from Pakistan
Talking point: “The call centre is like my second home. We high-five each other when someone gets a pledge. But it’s not just about asking for support. It’s about the conversation and building a rapport with alumni. The last part we talk about is money. Most alumni are generous with their time. They offer insights and advice. I especially love talking to Schulich and Osgoode grads about the business world. It enlightens me and gives me confidence about my future career. I feel the love and attachment they feel toward York as we are all one big family.”
Caller ID: Raveena Kaura
York profile: Second year, accounting; first in her family to go to university in Canada
Talking point: “I love listening to stories alumni have to offer. It’s amazing to see how York has changed over the decades. I once had a conversation with a grad for more than 30 minutes. We talked about everything. We were on the verge of solving all the issues in the world. Another time, I talked to a Schulich grad from the ’60s. The school wasn’t even called Schulich then. He told me about how one winter he had to drive a snowmobile to hand in an assignment. As a current student, it’s nice to know our alumni are willing to help continue the cycle of York students giving back to one another.”