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For Some, Holiday Break is All Business

Elizabeth Rich, advancement, works the phone.

Next week during winter holiday break, as nearly all in the Smith community will be at home, visiting family, or away on vacation, a handful of employees will commute to campus, power up their computers and put in a day’s work just as they do during other times of the year.

In the Office of Admission, a dozen employees will be busy for three days, Dec. 27 through 29, opening mail, entering data and filing materials from Smith applicants.

And for nine employees in the Office of Advancement, it’s a week of full workdays beginning Tuesday, Dec. 26 -- and even Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 30 and 31, for a few -- scrambling to receive and process the flood of last-minute donations to the college’s Alumnae Fund before the new year arrives.

It’s an annual ritual, this gathering of advancement gift processors during the closing hours of the year. They typically take in between 300 and 400 gifts each day of the week, double the usual in-take of 100 to 200 gifts a day during the rest of the year, says Elizabeth Rich, assistant director for gifts and records in advancement, who is among those who work that week.

“We’re here every year on the holiday break, taking care of all these gifts before December 31,” said Rich, who joined the advancement office six years ago. “We want to process the gifts and issue receipts to the donors as soon as possible for their records.”

Heather Zottoli (left) and Janice McDowell at their advancement office desks

Though the few advancement employees stay very busy during the mid-holiday shifts, Rich says they keep it light and enjoyable.

“It’s really festive,” she said. “We have visitors, we’re not getting any phone calls from other college offices, we’re left alone to do our work, and we’re fed. One of the really great things that happens when we’re here is the directors from advancement come in and bring us lunch.”

To boot, the group typically receives presents of cookies and ice cream from President Carol T. Christ, said Rich.

The advancement employees’ work consists of batching gifts by type of payment -- either in the form of stock, checks, credit cards, or copies of checks deposited into a college account -- and creating and entering deposit information. Finally, they notify other departments and organizations, such as Friends of Libraries or Friends of the Botanic Garden, so they can send thank-you notes to the donors.

Occasionally, they might get a challenging request, Rich says, such as from a potential donor who wants to transfer money from a mutual fund, for example. “And sometimes people come out of the woodwork, just looking for their long-lost friend who went to Smith the same time they did,” she said.

It’s all part of the between-holiday schedule for the advancement group, as they rally together to process all those year-end donations.

“We enjoy this time,” says Rich. “It’s really a team time, when we’re really pulling together to get through it.”

12/21/06   By Eric Sean Weld
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