Who you gonna call? Alumni!
That is what junior Tessa D’Souza did as a volunteer for the Taylor Phonathon, an event to encourage Taylor alumni to give back.
D’Souza understood that the event wasn’t just about money. She said working at Phonathon gave her the chance to make connections with alumni.
“When you’re doing Phonathon, you’re literally just calling people up and asking them to give up something,” D’Souza said. “But you’re not just doing that. You’re offering them so much in terms of conversation … you’re giving them a space where they can talk about their memories with you.”
The workers at Phonathon care about their donors personally. On a normal call, D’Souza would check in with donors and their families and pray for them. Sometimes, donors would offer to pray for her as well.
Prayer was one of the most meaningful parts of the event for her.
“It’s so exciting to hear how invested (donors) are (in Taylor),” D’Souza said. “Even if financially, they are only able to give $30, that’s $30 we wouldn’t otherwise have and they’re praying for us.”
Her first experience volunteering with a Phonathon was at Asbury University, where she attended as a dual-credit student in high school. There, she learned the ropes from its director, who researched how Asbury could improve the way it sourced its funding.
“She was very intentional about teaching me the ways we can do it poorly and do it well,” D’Souza said.
She took the fundraising skills she honed at Asbury to Taylor as a Phonathon volunteer. D’Souza served for two years under two different managers and eventually became a manager herself.
D’Souza has always had a heart for serving others. She had led many service projects at Taylor and at home in Kentucky, including a landscaping project at a shelter for human trafficking survivors.
She relates her community service to her fundraising for Taylor, since both give her the opportunity to make friends and connect with others.
“(Donors) already want to give most of the time, and you’re just sitting there until they are ready,” D’Souza said. “90% of the time I was at (the) Phonathon, I’d forget that I was making money.”
Her experience in fundraising would inspire her to give back to Taylor. For a project in Professor of Marketing Mick Bates’ New Venture Planning class, students were asked to create and sell a product with the goal of making $500.
She knew that most of the students in her class would sell cookies or other baked goods, so she relied on her Brazilian roots to sell a unique sweet: brigadeiros. Brigadeiros are little balls of chocolate covered with chocolate sprinkles, a popular Brazilian fudge. D’Souza said her group’s versions were “disturbingly Americanized,” including flavors such as coconut and cookies and cream.
Her team had a product with an advantage over their classmates.
“There were maybe three or four people on campus who had tried them before, so there was no precedent for how it had to taste,” D’Souza said.
The brigadeiros were a success, but the project wasn’t over yet. As part of the assignment, 10% of the proceeds for their product had to go to a charity of their choice. Her group knew they wanted to give to a Taylor scholarship, but they couldn’t decide which one.
Instead of donating to a scholarship that would benefit a specific group, they settled on giving to the Taylor Fund since it would benefit all students.
“The Taylor Fund provides student scholarships and if we have an emergency fund issue, it can reduce those scholarship needs overall,” D’ Souza said. “Probably the easiest way to help Taylor students is to give to the Taylor fund, so all of us and our friends would benefit.”
The Taylor Fund is an annual fund, meaning the money donated to it will be spent and refilled every year. For students who rely on scholarships to pay for their tuition, the Taylor Fund is a blessing.
D’Souza believes donating to the Taylor Fund is a great way for students and parents to give back to Taylor.
She encourages donors to think about what the money they donate could be used for.
“If you have a little bit of extra (money) lying around, that is such a powerful way to make someone else’s life easier,” D’Souza said. “$50 is maybe five hours of work at the DC. That (donation) could bring a student down from (10) hours (of work) to five hours.”
D’Souza says that donors can still mail in a check to donate to the Taylor Fund, but the easiest way to donate is to give online at taylor.edu/giving.
Even if donors feel like they have little to give, they can always pray for Taylor students and alumni. After all, this is what D’Souza’s fundraising efforts are all about — caring for her community.