Kelsey Richmond lifted up the hefty receiver on her yellow, push-button phone and began dialing one of the many numbers in front of her.

Kelsey Richmond lifted up the hefty receiver on her yellow, push-button phone and began dialing one of the many numbers in front of her.

"Hi, I'm calling from Southern Oregon University," Richmond began. She struck up a conversation, re-checked contact information and chatted with the person on the other end.

Then, the kicker.

"Would you be able to help us (SOU) out with a Provost Circle Pledge of $500?" Richmond asked. "You would? Great!"

Richmond joined nine other students in the Plunkett Center at a phone bank calling to raise money for the university.

The students comprised a small group that operates the SOU Fund Phonathon, a fundraising campaign through the SOU Foundation to help raise money for annual scholarships, departments and programs.

"We fund-raise to support the university," said Lynn Green, SOU director of marketing and public relations. "When the university has a need, it has money it can use."

Active since 2001, Phonathon is a continuing event, operating three times each school year for three weeks at a time.

"The money goes into an unrestricted use and current operations fund," said Alice Geankoplis, director of development for annual giving. "It is a growing fund that has been consistently going for the past four years."

However, donors do have an option of designating their gifts to certain departments or programs if they desire. Gifts to individual students are not allowed.

This year's goal is to raise $60,000, a much higher goal than last year's $41,700.

By in large, donors have upped their average gift amounts. On average, donors now give between $62 and $68, compared to last year's $54.

Geankoplis attributes the higher levels in giving to the budget crisis SOU faces.

"Donors are becoming more aware of budget issues," said Geankoplis. "They know that we really need support."

Currently, SOU is facing a $4 million budget shortfall because of dwindling enrollment, decreased state support and higher energy and health care costs.

"We want students to speak from their hearts about how much they need help," Geankoplis said. "Most students who work here are working to fund their education. They can speak from their own experiences as to why SOU is in such need of money, and how budget cuts have affected the students."