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Inside Iowa State, a newspaper for faculty and staff, is published by the Office of University Relations.

Jan. 18, 2008


Iowa State junior Dustin Bueltel has a rare gift when it comes to fund raising. Singly, he has raised $614,000 through the ISU Foundation since 2004. Photo by Bob Elbert.

His passion for ISU is paying off

by Paula Van Brocklin

Dustin Bueltel is an Iowa State record holder. But his accomplishments didn't occur on a football field, a basketball court or even in a classroom. Rather, Bueltel, a 23-year-old junior from Fremont, made university history last year in the basement of Durham Center.

Between July 1, 2006, and June 30, 2007, the agricultural studies major single-handedly raised $403,000 in the ISU Foundation phone center (located in Durham Center's basement), more than any other student in the university's history. Bueltel's total fund-raising efforts have amounted to $614,000 in pledges and gifts since 2004, when he joined the phone center staff.

How unusual is such a feat?

"Highly unusual," said Dawone Robinson, program manager in the ISU Foundation phone center. "We have 32 callers working every night. To have one individual raise that much money ... it's amazing. It's quite an accomplishment."

Persistence pays off

Bueltel initially became a student caller to earn extra money for college. Before long, he discovered a deep passion for Iowa State and its students, which inspired him to excel. But, despite his success, Bueltel faced challenges.

"It took me six (four-hour) shifts to get my first pledge," Bueltel said. "It didn't come easy right away for me."

ISU Foundation statistics show Bueltel contacted approximately 20,000 people in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico last year. While he didn't ask all those individuals for money, he still was rejected about 7,000 times. Undeterred, Bueltel remained determined to raise money for Iowa State. Robinson said such dedication is remarkable, especially in a job with a high turnover rate.

"Anybody who has success with fund raising, it's clearly because of drive and motivation," Robinson said.

It was that drive and motivation that recently catapulted Bueltel to the position of program assistant at the phone center. Now he, along with seven other assistants, is coaching more than 100 student callers.

"I'm responsible for monitoring callers for performance, keeping them on task, keeping them focused so they can raise more money and do their jobs to the best of their ability," Bueltel said. Other tasks include developing sound fund-raising techniques and helping callers cope with rejection.

Thinking of others

As a student caller, Bueltel's philosophy was simple: his best was never good enough. He repeatedly tried to surpass his own top performance, even though he never received a cut of the money he raised.

"I had a desire to do better than I had in the past," he said. "My passion for the university kept me thinking I want to help as many students as I can."

Robinson said it's common for the phone center as a whole to establish a nightly fund-raising goal, but Bueltel often would set his own target amount.

"For example, Dustin would set a goal of $5,000," Robinson explained. "To him, that was 10 $500 scholarships."

Bueltel's drive to succeed, coupled with his knack for quickly forging bonds with alumni on the phone, resulted in a single pledge of $12,000 one night.

"[The alumni] enjoy hearing what's going on (at Iowa State) from a student," Bueltel said. "It feels really good to know that we aren't the only ones who care about the university."

His past, present and future?

Bueltel's work at the phone center isn't his first exposure to phone sales and marketing. When he was 16, Bueltel worked for a telemarketing company in Oskaloosa, selling insurance products and phone services. He worked for the company only six months, but was named "Caller of the Month" three times for exceeding performance goals.

Following graduation from Iowa State, Bueltel plans to pursue a career in sales and marketing.

If past performance is a predictor of future performance, Bueltel will continue to break records wherever he goes.


"It took me six (four-hour) shifts to get my first pledge. It didn't come easy right away for me."

Dustin Bueltel