Student caller raises $100k

Hamel '07 describes wide range of encounters with alums

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

One evening working at the Brown Annual Fund’s student calling center, Neil Hamel ’07 dialed up an alum from Maryland, who talked for 45 minutes about business internships and eventually invited Hamel to stay in his finished basement for the summer free of charge.

The lengthy call is just one of many memorable ones for Hamel, who has raised more than $100,000 while working at the calling center since the first semester of his sophomore year.

Another notable call came when Hamel secured the first of three $10,000 donations.

“The first time was pretty hard,” he said. “I was pulling out all the stops … I was so pumped (when I got the donation). It was a good feeling.”

Hamel said he realizes the significance of his fundraising accomplishments when he puts them in perspective.

“I raised $100,000. That can put a student through (school) for two years for free,” Hamel said. “It costs $5,000 to buy a team new uniforms. That (money) could buy 20 teams new uniforms.”

Hamel said he initially began working at the calling center because he wanted an on-campus job and he enjoys talking to people. He attributes some of his success to his ability to relate to alums who love Brown as much as he does.

Though student callers have a basic script they use to guide them through each call, Hamel said he knows how to tailor his conversational approach in order to appeal to a wide range of potential donors.

“I have a knack for knowing what kind of conversation (it will be) when the person picks up the phone,” he said. “When (the potential donor) says ‘Hello,’ I know how it’s going to go.”

Jennifer Gomez ’08, who has worked at the calling center for three semesters, has enjoyed working side-by-side with Hamel.

“We loved watching him work,” Gomez wrote in an e-mail to The Herald. “He sits back in his chair with a smirk on his face and talks away. It’s like he’s a professional marketer trying to sell the school to the alums.”

Not all alums are so eager to speak with student callers, who Hamel estimated make 140 calls during an average shift.

Indeed, Hamel has had to deal with his share of rude alums. He said some callers encounter alums and others who have problems with the University, and, instead of offering up a donation, take time to express pointed views about Brown. Hamel said student callers must handle these calls with patience and respect, noting that such situations increased after Sex Power God garnered national media attention and was featured on Fox News Channel in November 2005.

Stephanie Boyce, project manager at the calling center, said the 60 student callers play an integral role in maintaining a connection with thousands of members of the Brown community, including alums, parents of current students and friends of the University.

Student callers do more than merely ask for financial support, Boyce said. The workers contact members of the Brown community in order to “update their contact information, let them know what’s going on at Brown today (and) give them an opportunity to share their thoughts about the University,” she said.

Boyce said the calling center, which is located in the basement of Maddock Alumni Center, raises money for the Brown Annual Fund, the Brown Sports Foundation and the Brown Medical School Annual Fund. Calls are also made to seniors “on behalf of the Senior Class Gift,” she said.

Boyce said nearly half of the 32,000 people who made donations to the Brown Annual Fund last year chose to do so after speaking with a student caller. During the 2005-06 academic year, the student callers raised $1.8 million.

These days, Hamel is no longer working the phones. He is currently a student manager at the calling center, where he works three four-hour shifts each week. After graduation, Hamel hopes to pursue a career in business.

Boyce said she has been impressed with Hamel’s work and believes the skills he developed at the calling center will be of use to him when he pursues a career.

“Neil was a great caller and is a great student manager,” Boyce said. “He is very engaging in his conversations and makes real connections with the alumni that he talks to. I think that Neil will be a very successful businessman in the future.”

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