“I really needed this,” said the 72-year-old woman on the other end of the phone. “Thank you for being a listening ear—it means a lot.”
Aleczandra Aczon and other student fundraisers in the University of Hawai‘i call center dial 150 numbers a night, with eight to ten conversations lasting a few minutes each. Sometimes calls go a bit longer, as when Alec reached out to this long-time supporter of the UH Cancer Center.
Alec says, “I asked her why she started giving. She lost family members to cancer. Now, during the pandemic, she hasn’t been able to see her family. I became a listening ear for her; she was having a vent session with me about her personal life and how she was feeling. It was a long call, and I didn’t get to ask for a donation until the end, but then she thanked me for helping get her feelings out, and she gave another gift to the Fund for Excellence.”
Connecting with donors and making them feel happy makes Alec happy, and these connections motivate the mechanical engineering major to keep working on behalf of the university.
It started as just a campus job on the first day of her frosh year at UH Mānoa. “I was really quiet and shy, but this job, because of communication, leadership and getting to know people through the phone, helped me break out of my shell and be more comfortable and confident,” she says.
Ty Yamaguchi, UH Foundation Associate Director of Annual Giving, says, “When Alec first applied for this position, she came with a two-year reference from Chuck E. Cheese. This initially caused me to smile, but I was impressed with her dedication to her job. She was a 4.0 high school student while working, and I knew she could balance her priorities and be successful on our team. She is a great fundraiser and a fantastic leader.”
Now Alec is a call center supervisor, still making calls but coaching other student fundraisers as well. “It’s exciting,” she says, “helping them with their calls, sharing my experiences to help them connect with alumni and other donors. I value the leadership experience.”
Last June in her fourth year, she went over the $100,000 mark for funds raised.
Alec says, “I was actually keeping track of my progress as I approached $100,000, keeping track every shift. When I finally hit it, I got excited. I rang the bell and everyone cheered! We cheer each other on, and it’s a positive energy. I love that. The call center is full of different personalities, but I can get along with everyone because we have fun working together.”
She made a lot of telephone calls to get here, and she’s not finished yet. To the caring voices on the other end of the line, she says, “Thank you for answering the phone, and for staying on the call. Your gift means a lot, and you’re helping out a lot of people like me. I’m a scholarship recipient, and I appreciate the chance to help other students with your donations.”