Working with higher education clients now for almost 4 years I have learned quite a bit when it comes to how Financial Support works. One common theme I have seen, primarily with two-year institutions, is that there are typically 1-2 people in the Financial Support office. These 1-2 people are responsible for many different tasks. Not only are they tasked with managing scholarships and getting them awarded they are also the face of the…Advancement office! (It hurts even my head sometimes when I think about all they have to do) When admins tell me they just don’t have the time to get all the things done that they would like I feel their pain and would agree that they are right.
With that being said, I think many in the industry have been successful in finding ways to make to make their army of 1 (or 2) work efficiently. Technology is power and with technology I have seen so many administrators decrease wasted time on scholarship management tasks. With this extra time they are able to increase marketing campaigns to promote scholarships & bursaries on campus and improve their donor relations
I think there are 4 major tasks that can drastically reduce an admins time.
1) Rethinking how you collect student “Thank you” letters
Have you ever had a student walk in asking if you received their thank you letter? Immediately you begin to wonder if you have it and start going through your head to actually try to remember where it is. You open your cabinet drawer and try to slowly scramble to find it. All the while the student is standing there…staring…and waiting. I really dislike this type of story because the administrator looks disorganised, unprepared, or even inexperienced. They question the hard work they have put in. Wouldn’t it be great to completely change this story? To have the student walk in, ask the question and you easily look and are able to find it? This scenario isn’t crazy- its real and its happening to a lot of administrators today who have moved to an online platform. Utilising an online platform to capture, store and organise thank you letters allows admins to easily see where all their applicants are at in the thank you letter process while managing those thank you letters all in one place.
2) Switch up your Reviewer Process
I talked with a College last week where the administrator (an army of 1) not only printed off each application for reviewers but sat with them to ensure they had everything they needed. She said she spends 5-8 hours total doing these tasks…yikes. Being an army of 1 every minute… hour… meeting… is critical to being successful.
Utilising new reviewer practices cannot only save you time but keep reviews organised as well. Online reviewing allows reviewers to log in, complete their reviews and for you to review the best-qualified applicants. Some of you may be thinking “WHOA WHOA. I can't be changing the process on the reviewers. Some of them have been using the same process for 30+ years”. I get that. If that’s you I would advise that the best approach is finding an online reviewer management system that puts exactly what they are doing now into the online platform. If they want to meet together and only want to review incoming students you should find a platform that does that. It allows them to go with what they know but is also keeping up with the times of moving online.
3) Adding Donor Information online
Let's face it, millennial’s get a majority of their information online. So it makes sense that there is a growing trend to advertise donor information online. This gets the face of the donor and their story on the screen of each applicant that searches for that donor or their sponsored scholarship. The applicant is able to read the story and see maybe a picture of the donor. This interaction can greatly help the applicants thank you letters. Where before they may have had no clue that their donor served in the Air Force during WW2 students now can reference that with a “Thank you for your service.” This may seem small but this will make a Donors day!
4) Understanding and creating Reporting Tools
For years Financial Support folks have used Excel spreadsheets to help see trends in applicant data. Is there a certain county where we’re getting the most applications? Why is that? Online capabilities have taken this concept and made it better. With an online platform, now all you have to do is modify, filter, and look at past data to get exactly what you need. If your executive wants to know how many students applied that had over 300 UCAS points and they want that data from the past 3 years, an online platform can allow you to get that data within minutes.
Being an Army of 1 can be challenging. Stress is always looming its ugly head around the corner. The old saying goes “There is no I in Team”. For Financial Support folks I think the saying should read, “ I am the Team”. If you have any additional ways you’ve eliminated wasting hours by switching to online, please let me know!