As Irish universities hurtle towards a funding crisis in the wake of COVID-19, the UCD Foundation is restarting its phone fundraising campaign.
Aside from their role as a source of fundraising for the University, most students will recognize the UCD Foundation for its call centre, whose efforts account for about €800,000 of its overall annual income and serves as a popular source of on-campus employment. The Foundation also manages the University Club (pictured).
Mark McDonnell, Head of Annual Giving, told The College Tribune that the Foundation employs between 180-200 total students over the course of the school year, and upwards of 100 at once during peak months.
Part-time work in the call centre is regularly advertised to UCD students through their student email, especially towards the beginning of the year. The role almost entirely consists of calling alumni and asking for donations. According to one former employee, while the leadership team is considered “generally quite friendly”, the job itself can be difficult, and “the majority [of students] quit or were let go” at the end of their six-week trial period.
Due to the lockdown, the Foundation has not been able to offer hours to the majority of student callers, but according to Mr. McDonnell, they are “currently examining how we might be able to increase our capacity while maintaining safety protocols.” In the meantime, the call centre is opening on campus while strictly following social distancing protocols, only giving hours to experienced staff, and drastically limiting the number of callers working at a time.
The Foundation, which opened its doors in 1997, has raised an average of around €14 million annually over the past four years. In response to current events, it has also introduced a “UCD COVID-19 Emergency Fund”, which seeks to support a variety of impact areas. Notably, for many, this includes “Student Hardship Supports” and “Mental Health” as key priorities.
While the Foundation’s efforts account for a fraction of the University’s overall operating budget, the money raised goes directly to causes like student scholarships, campus refurbishments, and academic research.
When asked how fundraising goals may have changed due to the current situation, Mr. McDonnell said “the role of the Foundation is to support the strategic priorities of UCD and that hasn’t changed. We still aim to support the student experience and research as we’ve always done, but the pandemic has certainly brought a sharper focus to these areas.”
Mr. McDonnell went on to echo many of the concerns raised by students over the past few months, saying “We’re very concerned that some students will have financial challenges linked to the pandemic, on top of the number that would have been struggling anyway without the pandemic. There’s a real focus on trying to ensure that students will have financial and mental health support available in the months ahead.”
Jack McGee – Reporter