Annual Giving / Star 47
By Mary Marvin
Raising money is the top priority for the Pomona “Star 47” students. It’s what
they’re paid to do, and during the economic downturn this fall, they defied the
odds by beating last year’s total by $35,000. Wearing headsets and working
from computers in a small building behind Renwick House, the students
spend several hours a week calling alumni and parents for the Annual Fund.
Sometimes, the work is more than just another campus job.
“It can be fun,” says Silvia Bustamante ’09, who was a caller for two
years and is now a manager. “I’ve learned some history about Pomona, especially
when I mention that I lived in Harwood. I talked to one alum who wasn’t sure I
was from Pomona and started to quiz me—what’s the oldest dorm on campus,
what’s the special Pomona number. I said, ‘Smiley, 47,’ and then he said, ‘OK,
I trust you; I’ll give my credit card information.’”
Students also hear about new babies and job changes and get advice and
encouragement about majors or careers. One even landed an internship during a
phone conversation. And most of the parents and alums have a keen interest in
what’s going on at the College, particularly this year, when the future of the
alma mater was being debated.
“The students are great ambassadors for the College,” says Jim Hofbauer,
assistant director of annual giving, who oversees the group of about 30 student
callers and managers. “They’re a way for alumni to reconnect and find out what’s
going on with Pomona. We probably reach more alums than any other department
Reaching out to potential donors became easier with the acquisition of a
Web-based software system that eliminates most of the paper shuffling and lets
students have access to information about alumni majors and jobs, giving them
ways to strike up a conversation. They’re also able to quickly answer questions
about football schedules, speaker series and other campus events by accessing the
Although the fundraising positions are among the better-paying student jobs on
campus, asking for donations can be difficult and hang-ups can be discouraging.
But the students try to put it into perspective.
“It’s tough to ask people for money, especially now,” says
Elisha Nuchi ’09. “Recently, we called young alumni, who
are still trying to find jobs or are in grad school, so it’s hard
for them to give. But you get better at talking to people and
it gets easier to ask for money. And you do talk to some
interesting people. I’ve had a couple of great conversations
with alumni about my major.”
For Bustamante, working for Star 47 also is a way to
give back to the College. “I feel it’s something really
good, and that I’m helping out Pomona and making it a
In a couple of years, the callers will be on the receiving end of requests for money. What will they want to talk about when they get their first gift requests from the next generation of Star 47 students?
“I’ll probably want to know if the student likes it there; if Professor Hazlett and Professor Burke are still teaching; if they’re building anything
new on campus, and how the Star 47 program is going,” says Ben Yarbrough ’09. “I will definitely be giving. I know it can be pretty stressful for
the kids who are making the calls.”