95% of colleges and universities have more than one department involved in awarding scholarships and reporting to donors.
Based on our most recent survey, Financial Aid, Advancement, Admissions, and Academic Departments play the biggest role in the scholarship process on most campuses. This research shows that in most cases Financial Aid, Admissions, and Academic Departments all work together to award scholarships to students and notify students of these awards. However, Advancement is then in charge of collecting thank-you letters, making sure those thank-you letters get to donors, and that donor reports are completed.
As part of this survey, we asked hundreds of campuses globally what they do to communicate throughout the scholarship process. Some said they host meetings once a year, most people just said they send a lot of emails and share spreadsheets. Here we have some tips on ways to improve communications between all the parties on campus involved in the scholarship process.
So, what can you do to ensure the right data moves from your Scholarship Office or Financial Aid Office to donor relations? There are three easy steps to take:
- Create an advisory council
- Make information easily accessible
- Get award information to donors faster
Create an Advisory Council
An advisory council consists of all the people involved in your current scholarship process. This most likely includes Financial Aid, Donor Relations, Enrollment, and maybe even representatives from academic departments. Take time to map out the current scholarship and donor stewardship process as they work today. This will give everyone a big picture idea of who has ownership of which parts of the process. Most importantly, it will give everyone a place to begin suggesting improvements. Having an advisory council takes the pressure off one person to make a change. It brings together groups of people who can have a huge impact on campus.
Make Information Easily Accessible
Often, the people involved in scholarships and stewardship work separately. However, information such as scholarship award rationale, award recipient details, and thank-you notes should be shared. For example, Financial Aid often needs scholarship recipient information to verify award compliance while the Foundation or Advancement office needs this same information to share with donors. This information can be stored in email inboxes and on spreadsheets on individual computers. Opening access to information across campus can streamline the entire process and improve institutional relationships.
Get Award Information to Donors Faster
Foundations are often in a race to proactively share scholarship recipient information, thank-you letters, and fund financials with donors in a timely manner. One Foundation Vice President I spoke with mentioned that she is in a constant battle to alert donors of scholarship recipients before the student posts it on social media.
Donors also want to see the impact that they are making on the lives of students at your institutions. We see a trend in sharing more information with scholarship donors. Based on a study we conducted this past spring at AcademicWorks, here is what colleges and universities are providing to donors about their scholarship recipients:
- 73% are providing thank-you letters from students
- 67% are providing biographical information on scholarship recipients
- 34% are providing a photograph of the scholarship recipient
Going back Point #2, the more easily available scholarship information is, the faster you can it get to donors.