“We just got five thousand dollars!” Elaine Cartas exclaimed. The entire room went into an uproar with cheers and all simultaneously shouted “Thank you Scott!” for the donor to hear over the phone. Scott Bell, whose family owns Bryan’s Cleaners nearby, had just donated five thousand dollars to the Pasadena City College Foundation.
Tuesday, Dec. 1 wasn’t just an ordinary day; it was also “Giving Tuesday.” It is a nation-wide effort to raise money for charitable needs. This year, the PCC Foundation decided to join in and see what they could raise for the school in terms of grants, scholarships and whatever other needs may arise throughout the school year.
“They go directly to the PCC Foundation,” Bobbi Abram, Executive Director for the PCC Foundation, said. “The PCC foundation supports student scholarships, faculty grants, projects around the campus and this is, in particular, for unrestricted gifts. Sometimes there are just unexpected needs that come up in the campus and if a gift is restricted you have to use it exactly for that thing.”
The room full students had been working since 5:45 p.m. to try and raise money through unrestricted gifts by calling staff, faculty, alumni and community members who’ve made donations in the past.
Both Cartas, the developmental consultant leading the campaign, and Abram were already overwhelmed by the fact that they had managed to raise five thousand dollars in one hour.
“We decided that there’s a lot of people out there that love PCC and we should just simply give them a call on Giving Tuesday and honestly, I’m stunned.” Abram said. “I’ve done phone-a-thons for a lot of years and we’ve raised five thousand dollars in one hour.”
But when Bell called with his donation, the excitement and the bar for the evening only raised.
“I just posted on Facebook that we made 6K in an hour and now I have to change it!” Cartas said.
Abram had high hopes even before the night started that they would do exceedingly well. Her aspirations were only confirmed by Bell’s phone call.
“Did you ever see Jaws?” Abram said. “He looks at the shark and he goes, ‘We’re going to need a bigger boat.’ I think we’re going to need a bigger boat. I think next year when we do this, we’ll need a bigger room, we’ll have more students, and we’ll have more people to call. This has just been a phenomenal success.”
They did not set a number that they hoped to reach every 10 minutes or even by the hour, but they did have 430 phone calls to make. By around 6:45p.m., they already knew they were going to be leaving early for the night.
Abram pointed out that a majority of the people they were calling really appreciated the fact that it was current students who were reaching out. It means more when the cause for the money that’s being donated comes straight from the source.
“The people on the phone, they love hearing from the students,” Abram said. “In fact, when one said ‘yes’ to a gift, the foundation member said, ‘How could I say no to that student? They were so wonderful.’”
Raising money for any cause can be daunting, but Abram had a very positive attitude in approaching the matter.
“The number one way to raise money is just to ask,” Abram said. “So when somebody says, ‘Why didn’t you give?,’ they respond, ‘Well, nobody asked.’ So we’re taking that excuse off the table. We’re making sure that people get asked and they can choose whether to help or not. It’s all up to them. We’ve got gifts from twenty dollars to a thousand dollars and every single one of those helps a student. We’re just really appreciative of what our donors can do.”
Abram pointed out that some of the students were wracked with nerves before the call-a-thon began. Besides some comforting words that explained she still gets nervous after 30 years of doing this, she and Cartas set the evening up so that it would be fun. Z-Pizza donated food and they made it to be more of a game to ease the pressure.
“What we do is when they get a gift, they ring their bell,” Abram said. “And if they don’t, there’s this little [table punching bag]. We’re just trying to lighten the mood and make it fun. They have prizes they can win. Everybody gets a gift for participating.”
The last time the foundation tried a fundraiser was three years ago for band uniforms. The lists were outdated and it was extremely difficult. This time around, it was very rare that a student said, “I got disconnected” or “It was a wrong number.”
This time around, however, the fundraiser ended up being a huge success. The foundation was able to raise $13,440 by the end of the night, and that was by making 430 phone calls. Abram was very happy with the turnout and is hopeful that next year will be even better.
“This is definitely something we’re going to do every year.” Abram said. “To me, the students who are the beneficiaries of this, and the donors who are giving this to make sure that students can keep going. When you put those two elements together, that’s what philanthropy is. It’s the giving and the receiving and it’s the magic that happens in that moment. That’s why I do this job, that’s why I love it. To me, there’s nothing more worthy than education for that.”