Fundraising Voices: Being a Call Center Manager

Autumn HortonSenior Consultant, Account ManagementSeptember 28, 2015

Having fun, mentoring, being challenged, achieving goals, building and managing a team and being an extension of an annual giving team is what I reflect on most during my time as a call center manager. It was an invaluable learning experience and helped me grow into the professional I am today by working with a variety of institutions across the country. The role was challenging at times and very rewarding to think a small group of student callers could have that large of an impact on the private support given to an institution and that I was the direct link to that success.

I learned a lot during my first few years and still stay in touch with many of the callers that worked with me along the way. Quite a few have gone on to careers in higher education and as fundraisers. We share a bond of working tough nights and having some record-setting years. We learned a lot about ourselves and about connecting with donors in the process.

A large number of fundraising professionals were either phonathon callers or began their careers managing a call center. While many of us go on to do other things, there’s a lot to be learned from organizing direct personal contact with donors on the phone, and leading a group of student callers to make this connection.

I reached out to some great people that I’ve worked with at Ruffalo Noel Levitz who had the same start and asked this question to find out about their experience:

What have you learned from the experience of managing a call center and phonathon program that has helped you in your career?

“While managing four different call centers during my time as a Program Center Manager, I learned more than I could have through any other entry-level position. Not only did I learn fundraising and management skills, but I also learned about human resources, client relations, recruiting, and interviewing. The list of the valuable skills I learned could go on forever. Ultimately, being a PCM set me on a career path that could go in many different directions and has been the most valuable work experience in my life so far.”

  • Katie Wells, Program Director, The Ohio State University

“Becoming a PCM not only taught me a great deal about fundraising and statistical analysis, but it has helped me to grow into the manager I am today by allowing me to truly understand the importance of managing a team. I believe my skills of patience and compassion for people have grown and become more refined with my time as a PCM. These skills are something that will stay with me in any career I could possibly have going forward.”

  • Mackenzie Visser, Program Center Manager, Pepperdine University

“In actuality, being a call center manager has taught me that even in a position where your day-to-day job function is the same, you can never really know what to expect. From results and goals to students and staffing, the Program Center Manager position has taught me about the differences in doing a job and doing a job well. Even with 5+ years of management experience before I joined Ruffalo Noel Levitz, I realized that there was a lot more for me to learn about being an effective manager. In my previous position, the company motto was “Good enough never is.” This resonates with me more now than it did then, because even when my team smashed the first year’s dollars goal by 26%, we still had a lot of room for growth and improvement. In my fourth year as a PCM, I’m learning to constantly improve daily practices—even things as simple as how I make a ‘to do’ list—to make my job easier and to ensure success across the board. I probably would have learned the skills I developed over the last 3 years in other jobs, but I know for a fact that I would not have learned or been able to implement them as quickly as I have since joining RNL.”

  • Michael Rohling, Program Center Manager at University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill


“You can’t ask for more variety from the PCM position. It allows me to strategically utilize my strengths while forcing me to overcome any weaknesses. It enhances my skill set that I will take with me along my professional career!”

  • Joel Tyler, Program Center Manager, Baylor University

“Entrepreneurship. A lot of responsibility falls on the PCM to take smart risks, to achieve strong fundraising results, and to maintain strong client relations. Having the support and expertise of the RNL team while running a call center allowed me to grow as a leader, as a professional, and as a fundraiser.”

  • Bill Lytch, Senior Manager of Fundraising Services

160k“A tenet that continues to inspire me since my first day is – a good leader creates many followers, but a great leader creates many leaders. Managing a phonathon program requires one to be a great leader with serious multi-tasking skills. Being results driven, I have learned to build future managers for this industry and strengthen my analytical skills to handle the beautiful complexities a phonathon encompasses.”

  • Adrija Basu, Program Director , Rutgers University

“Being a PCM allowed me to work simultaneously in two professional settings by working for a for-profit company while partnering with non-profit institutions. In addition, the experience also allowed me better understand the importance of motivating a team to exceed goals by setting challenging expectations while also providing support to ensure everyone is working together as a team.”

  • Katie Haystead, Senior Manager of Fundraising Services

“The level of annual giving knowledge, management experience, and professionalism that I gained so early on in my career as a PCM is unmatched. I continue to benefit from these skills every day, and am a stronger leader and fundraiser thanks to my time with RNL.”

  • Becky Machamer, Annual Giving and Foundation Relations Officer, Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation

If you like what you’ve read here, maybe this could be a job for you. Or maybe you know a goal-oriented professional that is ready for the challenge.

The Program Center Manager role offers opportunity around the globe. The PCM leads our on-campus phonathon efforts, with opportunities for both travel and relocation throughout the USA, Australia and Canada. We provide strong support and ongoing education to keep managers ready to do their best while serving institutions.

Check out the Program Center Manager position description, or forward this on to someone you are mentoring or sponsoring in their professional career.

About the Author

As Senior Consultant, Account Management, Autumn is focused on providing strategic consultation and critical insights to help your program innovate and succeed. She is responsible for providing guidance for overall program strategy and delivery, working...

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