In the summer of 1965, between my sophomore and junior years at Northwestern University, I took a telemarketing job selling magazine subscriptions in downtown Chicago. The job was simple enough. Pick a page in the Chicago phone book and start calling people.
When a person answered, I read a scripted sales pitch. It didn't work. Call after call, hour after hour, day after day — and not one sale. Humbled, discouraged, I decided it was time to look for another summer job.
The distant memory was still fresh on my mind when I stepped into the BYU Telefund area in the LDS Philanthropies building in Provo, Utah. But I was in for a pleasant surprise. Suddenly, I felt like Jack Skellington as he discovered Christmas Town in "The Nightmare Before Christmas."
What's this? Forty-some students chatting, smiling and obviously excited to spend four or five hours calling people they didn't know to ask for a donation? Guys wearing ties? Girls wearing Sunday dresses?
A supervisor welcomed the students. He followed with a brief, inspirational thought. A caller prayed for the Spirit to be with the students that night.
I was assigned to sit next to a student by the name of Scott Goldsmith. Scott handed me a set of headphones so I could listen in on his conversations. As we chit-chatted, I learned that he was from Sandy, Utah, he was a business major, and he served in the South Africa Durban Mission.
Then he started calling. The name and address of a BYU alumnus appeared on his computer screen. A lady answered. I listened as Scott enthusiastically greeted her. "Hello, my name is Scott Goldsmith, and I am a student from Sandy, Utah, calling on behalf of BYU Annual Giving. How has your day been?" he asked cheerfully.
A couple of minutes later, after Scott confirmed that BYU had her correct address and he had explained various giving options, the lady agreed to give $35 to support the BYU Scholarship Fund. One call. One gift. Impressive, to say the least.
It took several more calls to eventually record another gift, but Scott was always upbeat, ever the enthusiastic, optimistic university representative. And he wasn't the only one. Each of the students working that night seemed to be doing a job they enjoyed and believed in. One Telefunder explained her positive attitude this way: "We focus on giving alumni opportunities to be givers. Once I learned this, I have been confident in asking people to donate."
Ryan Seamons, manager of the BYU Telefund, told me that the 80 students on staff spoke with almost 80,000 people in 2010 and received 30,845 pledges.
I left contemplating the many lives those pledges will touch and the good that will come from them as students leave Brigham Young University and "go forth to serve." That's the bottom line. That's why BYU has a Telefund.
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