The need to update our scholarship software became increasingly clear as the Community Foundation’s scholarship program grew to almost 40 different scholarship funds in 2018.
As with any investment, we wanted to be sure we were getting the right product that would help increase our efficiency for years to come. I researched several platforms and chose software from a company whose focus is “maximizing the impact of the philanthropic community” and committed many hours to learn the new software to have it up and running for the 2019 scholarship cycle.
We are in our second year of utilizing the new system and the effort put into implementation is paying off with a streamlined process for applicants, reviewers, and administrators.
In previous years, scholarship applications were collected online, but it was time-consuming and inefficient; each application and attachment had to be individually printed, scanned, and emailed to committee members for review. Students had to read through the criteria for every scholarship and determine their eligibility, which led to many ineligible or incomplete applications, and staff had to vet each application before sending it to committees for review so that they were not reviewing ineligible applications. Committee members had to rely on hand-written notes and rankings when reviewing stacks of paper applications.
Now, students interested in applying for any of our scholarships start by taking an Eligibility Quiz, a short questionnaire incorporating the various criteria from all our scholarships. Based on the applicant’s answers a list of scholarships for which they are eligible to apply is generated for them. This feature ensures that applicants are not spending time applying for a scholarship that they do not meet the criteria for, and staff and committee members can be sure only eligible and complete applications are received.
Students are also made aware of additional scholarships that they are eligible to apply for, but may not have known about – an exciting bonus for everybody!
Furthermore, selection committee members can access, review, and evaluate applications assigned to them online via the software system; based on their rating of each application, a percentage ranking is generated, which can be helpful as committees work through the tough job of making award selections. Fundholders who have established these scholarship funds can also be assured that they are receiving more, high-quality applications and that the best applicants are identified to receive awards.
Lessons learned and feedback received in the inaugural year has led to a smooth start to the 2020 cycle as applicants, selection committee members, fundholders (and staff!) become more comfortable with using the software and see the value of the many time-saving features.
Scholarships are one of the most personal and gratifying ways people experience philanthropy. When you create a scholarship with the Community Foundation to “pay it forward”, honor a loved one, or lift a population, school, or area of focus, you know that your fund is well managed.
Learn more about establishing a scholarship fund and watch a brief video featuring satisfied fundholders.
Please give me a call if you are interested in creating a scholarship fund for your personal, business, or service group philanthropy.
Lauren Renda, Program Officer