Want to confuse somebody you just met? Start talking to them about your Sybunts. Have you ever gone to a conference and struck up a conversation with the person at your table, only to realize several minutes into the detailed discussion that you haven’t heard half the terms the person was using? Join the crowd. Our industry is littered with acronyms, descriptions, and a slew of names for each component of our programs. Yet, most of them mean the exact same thing- or something close to it. Region or location doesn’t seem to have much to do with it. Tradition and creative managers are the factors usually responsible for what terms are used on campus. Many people outside our industry, or even somebody new to their position within the industry, are probably confused by our lingo. Maybe we should try to clear it up here, to the extent that is possible.
Phonathon, (aka phon-a-thon or phoneathon), is my choice for a term describing an on-campus phone program. But it’s not the only term that exists. In fact, this is one of the most wide-ranging descriptions we have in our industry. Here are some other terms commonly used: Telefund, Telephone Outreach Program (TOP), National Phone Campaign (NPC), Phone Center, Call Center, and Telemarketing Campaign. That last one is a dying name…but it still exists. More commonly, colleges and universities are giving creative names to their program: Bulldog Calling Center (Mississippi State), Call-a-Coug (Washington State), RepDials (University of Florida), and others too numerous to mention. Naming your phonathon gives it a unique identity and can actually help recruiting and retention in the event you are taking over a phone program on campus with a bad reputation with the students. Just know that they all pretty much mean the same thing- student caller initiated outreach programs aimed at garnering the financial support of alumni, parents, and friends.
Creative segment names also seem to be gathering momentum the last few years. Here are a few creative names and descriptions…to keep everyone on the same page. Some you may recognize, others you may not.
Lybunts- Last Year But Unfortunately Not This Year. Also known as Current Donors or Renewals.
Sybunts- Some Year But Unfortunately Not This Year. Also known as Lapsed Donors or Past Givers.
Nondonors- Never Givers is the most common alternative. Those optimistic managers might call them Future Donors.
Major Donors- President’s Club, Chancellor’s Club
Young Alumni- Recent Graduates, G.O.L.D. (Graduates of the Last Decade)
Older Alumni - Retired Alumni or my personal favorite…Seasoned Alumni.
The bottom line is that creative name changes are interesting, fun, and they sometimes help to describe your operation to your constituency. But remember that it’s more important to focus on proper operation and management of the call center than fancy names. In the end, what separates your program from other institutions is less about creative marketing and more about how well you manage the details and steer the ship.