Unis call in the old guard for financial help

JODY O'CALLAGHAN
Last updated 05:00 18/08/2014

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New Zealand graduates can expect calls from their old universities as more institutions turn to telephone campaigns to raise the millions needed to keep up with international competitors.

Many are doing away with snail mail and paying students to reconnect with past graduates by phone, aiming to get more than 30 per cent to donate.

Fundraisers say the proactive techniques are "a critical part of being a 21st century university".

Canterbury and Victoria universities have conducted telephone campaigns, raising more than $200,000, and others are following suit.

University of Canterbury students called more than 5550 alumni over five weeks in April and May, and 36 per cent chose to donate.

The campaign - the university's third since 2012 - raised $245,000, to go towards students working with children suffering psychological problems following the 2010-2011 earthquakes.

Alumni and development director Jo Dowling said UC Foundation aimed to raise $7 million this year for scholarships and initiatives making "exceptional difference" on campus.

She came from a similar role in the United Kingdom, where universities had been using telephone campaigns for 20 years.

Phone calls - conducted by paid students - were a "two-way conversation whereas mail was one-way".

Each alumnus would likely receive a call once every three to five years, she said.

At least $1m also went into the fund each year from legacies.

Victoria University Foundation development executive director Shelagh Murray said university fundraising "might be gearing up to another level" in New Zealand.

The final tally of its first telephone campaign last month had not been calculated, but was successful.

Director of alumni relations and development at University of Auckland Mark Bentley said philanthropy was an increasingly important part of keeping up with international competition. Government funding only provided a "base level of support".

"Education is moving ahead of pace in other places and the New Zealand taxpayer is not awfully keen on funding the university system the country deserves.

"While the Government allows us to be good, to be great we need to do something spectacular."

The University of Auckland had raised the most funds in tertiary education history - $203m during a 6-year period.

"If we didn't do that we would be out of step with our international competitors."

A Lincoln University spokesman said it planned to run a telephone marketing campaign to "connect with alumni to test the appropriateness and possibility for raising funds in this way".

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- The Press

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