2014 UCT Phonathon raises record-breaking R5,4 million

9 Jul 2014 - 12:00

UCT Phonathon callers with Vice-Chancellor Max Price

The 2014 Phonathon team, pictured here with Vice-Chancellor Dr Max Price.


A dreary, wet and cloudy lower campus provided a contrasting background for the excitement and enthusiasm permeating the “glass room” at the Graça Machel Residence Hall on the afternoon of Sunday 6 July.

The occasion was an event to mark the end of the 2014 Phonathon campaign, a month-long initiative that saw 41 students calling over 12,000 UCT alumni in an effort to reconnect with them, and to raise money for the University's strategic projects.

The end of campaign event was hosted by the Vice-Chancellor, Dr Max Price, and provided an opportunity for him and the UCT community to thank the student callers, and congratulate them on the unprecedented success of this year's Phonathon campaign.

This is the fifth time that UCT holds a Phonathon, and the second time that this is done in partnership with Rux Burton and Associates (RBA), a telephone fundraising consultancy firm based in the UK.

The financial target set for this year's campaign was an ambitious R1,5 million, to be raised in support of projects like Student Financial Aid, the University Endowment Fund and UCT's Schools Improvement Initiative.

Undaunted, this group of callers met that target within the first week. In total, over the four week Phonathon, they raised a magnificent R5,4 million, more than three times the target amount.

“Through your efforts, you've made an enormous difference to many students, who will benefit for years to come,” said Dr Russell Ally, Executive Director of the Development and Alumni Department.

In his address to the students, Vice-Chancellor Dr Price emphasised that the particular skills that they acquired during their month of calling will prove to be invaluable over the course of their careers.

Nathaniel Gliksman, the Team Leader from RBA, agreed, noting that “calling complete strangers and getting them to trust you enough to open up about their UCT experiences, and make a commitment of their money takes an enormous amount of capability. If you can do that, what can't you do?”

One of the alumni who was called is Athol Gordon, a UCT law alumnus. The phone call that he received made such an impression that he asked whether he could personally attend the close-off event and present the achievement certificates to some of the top callers.

“I get many unsolicited calls from a number of organizations and I've never engaged with the person on the other end before, so whatever the recipe is that you were taught, please stick to it.”

Mr Gordon made a five year pledge in support of this year's Phonathon, and he is not alone. This year, over 740 alumni and friends of the university pledged their support to UCT. This group includes the Vice-Chancellor himself, who showed his support by committing to a matching gift of R100 000 a year, for five years.

The success of this campaign is significant, not only in the South African higher education fundraising environment, but internationally as well. “I've run close to 50 campaigns over the years, but none of them have come close to this one.” said Glicksman, on behalf of Rux Burton and Associates.

“When we run campaigns like this in the UK, we usually achieve around a 30% giving rate, for a total of £200 000 in 6 weeks. This campaign boasted a 43% giving rate, for a total of over £250 000 in just 4 weeks! What you have done, is just unparalleled.”

Project co-ordinator Cindy De Oliveira summed up the sentiments of the entire Phonathon team in her remarks to the students: “For me, this Phonathon was about so much more than fundraising. It was about the connections that you made with alumni, the mentorship and the advice that you received from them, the way that each one of you developed confidence and self-assurance through this process. Working with all of you on this project has far exceeded my expectations of what is possible. From all of us at UCT – thank you.”

Did you receive a phone call as part of this year's Phonathon campaign? To give us your feedback, email Cindy De Oliveira at cindy.deoliveira@uct.ac.za.