The College of Staten Island Foundation and the Office of Institutional Advancement are in the midst of their annual spring Phonathon, an effort that, as part of the College’s Annual Fund, raises funds for student scholarships, research stipends, internships, and library acquisitions.

Anthony Zic, Director of Development, explains that his office is stepping up its fundraising efforts this time around, thanks to the support and enthusiasm of CSI President Tomás Morales, noting that the President has provided additional resources and given a green light to invest additional monies into [the Phonathon] and Annual Fund.” As a result, the Phonathon has moved from its original location in the Advancement Office to the College’s Financial Aid Office. This location, according to Zic, gives Phonathon staff “access to a greater number of phone jacks and phones, a greater number of calls made, and, therefore, resulting in a greater number of gifts to CSI. The space,” Zic continues, “is an environment that is far more conducive to calling donors. It’s a wide-open space, where pretty much everyone can see everyone, buzz is created, and the callers feed off of one another as they’re making these phone calls. That kind of buzz generates enthusiasm on the callers’ end and on the receiving end.” In addition to the improved location, this session will extend over 17 evenings, as opposed to the usual seven, and the number of callers is significantly greater, as well.

Thanks to Morales’s help, the goals for this round of the Phonathon have also changed, as the Advancement Office hopes to reach out to an unprecedented number of alumni and friends in one session, 30,000 (as compared to the average number of calls made per Phonathon session to date, 3,000). Subsequently, this single Phonathon session is also expected to raise more than double the amount relative to previous results. These efforts are important, Zic notes, because both the Phonathon and the Annual Fund are “really what build a foundation for philanthropy. For many CSI alumni, the Phonathon is the first way that a potential donor is exposed to the idea of charitable giving to the College. Once this foundation has been established and we prove to be good stewards of their gifts and further cultivate these relationships, it is our hope that not only will they continue to contribute to the College in the context of the Annual Fund, but they may also be interested in other projects, some of which may represent more substantial commitments on their behalf.”

Although some members of the CSI staff place calls to alumni, the grand majority of callers consist of current CSI students. This, Zic says, has an added benefit as students “have the unique opportunity to form a bond with the person they’re calling, because most of those people are alumni. In a lot of cases, there’s an instantaneous connection that’s made between the caller and the callee.

The coordinator of this spring’s Phonathon is Debra Santulli-Barone ‘07, who is no stranger to CSI Phonathons, having worked as a caller and supervisor at these events for the past six years. Describing the scene in the call room, Santulli-Barone notes, “The process is hectic and funny at times. In one of the rooms, there are six callers talking at once, so there is a variation of conversations going on. This particular room is a conference room where I have the newest callers working. It gives me the opportunity to listen, critique, and advise. So one conversation might be a pleasant one because the alumna is pleasant. Then, we have the alumna that will hang up before the caller has a chance to finish the script. Others will say they are sorry but cannot donate.”

Beyond all of the activity, Santulli-Barone explains that she is glad to be the coordinator. “I was honored to accept the position. As a recent graduate of CSI, and having attended the College for 14 years, I have such a large connection with CSI. I believe in the cause. In fact, due to the College’s fundraising efforts and the generous donations of our alumni, I had the opportunity to be awarded scholarships. I have spoken with delightful alumni who believe in the cause, too.”

The Spring 2008 Phonathon will run until May 8 with calls being made between the hours of 6:00pm and 9:00pm. For more information on volunteering as a caller for future phonathon sessions, or contributing to the Annual Fund, call the CSI Office of Institutional Advancement at 718.982.2365.