When it comes to managing scholarships there are many moving parts. The amount of a fund may fluctuate, or you may have new recipients each year. The one thing that doesn’t change about scholarships is…donors. You will always have donors, and your interactions with them can shape your success. Here are three key ways to keeping your donors happy:
Promote your scholarships
Donors want to know that students can easily find and apply for their scholarships. We have heard from organisations that have increased donor funded scholarships just because donors can easily see how their scholarships are promoted to students.
It has become discouraging for students to understand how to look for scholarships. So much so, that they have stopped looking altogether. According to Google the number of people looking for scholarships has gone down dramatically the past ten years. Again, that has to do with students not knowing where to look and what to do.
Promoting is everything. Promoting your scholarships in the local school paper, bookstore, and lunchroom etc. can really help. Many institutions take time during student orientation to talk about scholarships and quickly dive into how easy it is to apply. Promoting not only gives you more applications but it helps get the right students to the right donors. This is so impactful because the donors SEE where their money is going.
Create open communication with donors
“I want a student that is left handed, worked part-time, is studying to be a nurse, and is from New York…oh, and has red hair!” Does this kind of description ring a bell to anyone? Donors can sometimes have high demands…uh…well…“diverse criteria”, and with diverse criteria many times donors assume that you will be able to easily deliver the perfect student to award. (Oh, if only it was that simple!) Many times you’re left stressed trying to find just one…JUST ONE PERSON…to meet the criteria. In the end, you don’t find anyone, and the donor is left with a pocket full of money rather than with a deserving student working towards graduation.
In these kinds of situations, you may want to come up with an action plan and talk to the donor. Let them know that while you looked across the ends of the earth there was simply no one that matched their criteria. Right after you deliver that news, show them some alternative options. “If we removed 'worked part time’, I have 50 applicants that are eligible”. Some donors won't budge, but most will be intrigued by your findings and want to learn more. Talking to the donor and letting them know their options is critical. Allowing them to see non-results and showing them “Plan B” can allow them to open up their scholarship criteria. In the end, students can go to school with less stress, donors are excited to help, and the institution and the donor build a stronger relationship.
Quality thank-you letters and fast delivery
Once awards are made it's time for the students to attend a ceremony, write a thank-you letter, and/or submit a picture. Do you want them to write a sincere thank-you letter? You need provide them with the appropriate information to write an impactful letter such the history of the donor (or the donor's family) and what lead them to donate. Then and only then, can the thank-you letters go from good to GREAT. For example, if you just have the scholarship description as “this scholarship is funded by the Brent Family in remembrance of their son Ryan”, there isn’t a whole lot of content for a student to form a GREAT thank-you letter. Can you imagine how touched the donor’s family would feel if the student sent in a thank-you letter where they referenced something unique about their son? It deepens the relationship between the donor and student and results in a deeper relationship between the donor and you, the institution.
I know what you’re thinking right now…“But I don’t have that kind of detail on my donors”. To that, I reference the above point: create open communication with the donors. Send them an email or pick up the phone and ask them more about their story. It may take some time on your part, but the impact can have everlasting effects for years to come. Besides, doing this work on the backend will save you hours of meetings with students to review their subpar thank-you letters.
Without the right information, their thank-you letter may look something like this:
(By the way, that twitter handle is available if anyone wants it)
Avoiding this discussion and getting a proper, heartfelt, thank-you letter from the beginning allows you to give the donor their award recipient information more quickly. This can be HUGE for the donor because instead of waiting a few months while you go through each thank-you letter and hold meetings (or send emails) you quickly get information in the hands of the donor. The results are your job getting done quickly and happy donors. In the end, that’s all we want.
We are in the business of helping others. Helping students find money so they don’t have to work two jobs to go to school or take out a loan that will affect the rest of their lives. Donors are a critical piece of helping these students. If you would like to learn more about Blackbaud’s solutions for Award Management the please visit our Award Management site!