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Her Calling

Fundraising ace Jayde Culver is growing The Northern Fund by leaps and bounds.

Fundraising is an economic necessity for colleges and universities. It is so important, and so expected, that U.S. News & World Report factors alumni giving rates into its heralded annual college rankings.  

So by giving, Ohio Northern University alumni help the University in more ways than one, as the recent No. 2 Midwest Regional college ranking from U.S. News & World Report and successful capital campaign can attest.

And while fundraising is important, it isn’t easy. Well… not usually.

Jayde Culver, a senior psychology major from Tiffin, Ohio, is gaining notice on campus as a bit of a fundraising virtuoso, raising a whopping $54,385 for The Northern Fund this semester as an ONU Phonathon caller.

The Phonathon annually reaches nearly 30,000 alumni, parents and friends of the University with a simple request: Please continue supporting ONU. Last year, the initiative raised $329,000 for The Northern Fund, which supports ONU with annual operating costs and the University’s highest priorities — student scholarships, financial aid, faculty research and campus improvements.

“Our alumni are incredible,” says Culver. “They really care about the students that are here now, and they show that through their financial support. When I’m on the phone with them, they always ask me what I’m majoring in and how I’m doing and things like that. We say that ONU is a family, and I really do believe that it is.”

In her two years as a Phonathon caller, Culver has spoken with thousands of alumni. While she enjoys all of her calls, the ones to retired alumni are her favorite.

“I love talking to retired alumni, because they are always traveling or doing something interesting that they share with me,” she says.

For her part, Culver thanks each person she calls on behalf of scholarship recipients like herself. She also shares with them the new developments on campus. She often speaks with alumni who haven’t visited in decades and enjoys catching them up on new buildings like the Mathile Center, James F. Dicke Hall, and Dial-Roberson Stadium.

Culver can’t explain why she has had such success as a fundraiser. Though she’s a psychology major, she says she doesn’t think about her job in those terms. She doesn’t even use a script. She’s just a people-person who truly enjoys what she does.

“This is the best job I’ve ever had. I work every single shift because I love coming to work,” she says.

To put in perspective just how good she is, consider that, on average, she raises $217 an hour, every hour that she picks up the phone. Her success not only benefits The Northern Fund, but also sets the bar for her fellow Phonathon callers.

“Jayde is a mentor to a lot of the other students at the Phonathon,” says Juliann Peters, assistant director of annual giving. “I’ve never seen a student connect with alumni the way she does. She even had an alumnus take us out to lunch when he recently visited campus. He wanted to meet Jayde and see the call center and learn more about the Phonathon.”

What began as a work-study job has become a real passion for Culver. During a recent student fundraising campaign, she went door to door in the residence halls educating students on why fundraising is so important. If a student reacted negatively to the idea of giving more money to a school he or she already pays tuition to, Culver asked them whether they receive a scholarship. Far more often than not, the answer was yes, and with that one question she’d find the common ground to start a conversation.  

“I’d tell them that it’s not really about the money. It’s about the act of giving and establishing a culture of giving,” she says. “I think it did change some people’s minds.”

Culver is working for the Phonathon again this spring. She doesn’t know if she can break her record, but she says she’s going to try. After she graduates in May, she plans to explore graduate school opportunities in the field of family counseling.

She is, after all, quite good at connecting with people.

But if she decides that grad school isn’t for her, she’s also considering a career in higher education development.

She’s pretty good at that, too.