By Avery Howard
In donor relations, specifically in higher education, fund utilization is always a topic that brings forth much discussion. With organizations having hundreds, or even thousands, of funds to administer and steward, the task of where to start can be a bit daunting.
One type of fund that is often the easiest to utilize annually are scholarship/fellowship funds. Students are one constant on college campuses and without them, we wouldn’t have universities and colleges around the world. In most cases, it is impossible to justify a reason to not award scholarship/fellowship funds. Since students are a part of the mission of higher education institutions, ensuring access to education by awarding scholarship/fellowship funds is a great way to start increasing utilization of funds.
Here are a few steps to help you with scholarships/fellowship fund management:
Step 1: Identify Scholarship/Fellowship Funds
Depending on your organization, this is information you should be able to retrieve from your CRM or your organization’s financial system
Step 2: Review criteria for Scholarship/Fellowship Funds
For scholarships created decades ago, the criteria may no longer be relevant or legally acceptable. If this is the case, working with your organization’s legal counsel can ensure the documentation is changed to meet today’s legal standards
Also, ensuring you have the criteria for all funds is essential to making awards in line with donor intent
Step 3: Meet with your Scholarship Office/Manager
Building a relationship with the person or team responsible for awarding scholarships/fellowships to students is vital to scholarship/fellowship fund management
Be sure to share the importance of utilizing scholarship/fellowship funds, not only for the students, but for the donors as well
Provide scholarship/fellowship criteria, as they may not have in all cases
Step 4: Evaluate all your Scholarship/Fellowship Funds
Routinely review the financial balances
Before each award cycle to see how many funds can be dispersed, share with Scholarship Office/Manager
After the funds have been awarded, to ensure all funds were in fact utilized. If you find instances of scholarships/fellowships not being awarded follow-up with Scholarship Office/Manager
Once you’ve taken the steps above, your scholarship/fellowship fund management should be in a much better place than where you started. This will lead to newly established scholarship/fellowship funds being identified and awarded immediately.
As scholarship/fellowship administration strengthens you will capitalize on the partnership created with the Scholarship Office/Manager and find opportunities to highlight the impact of privately funded scholarship/fellowship funds in comparison to your organization’s overall award figures. You will also be able to start tracking additional scholarship/fellowship metrics highlighting the effectiveness of your work.
Having a strong scholarship/fellowship administration process will lead to improved stewardship of scholarship/fellowship donors. You will be able to regularly report to donors about their scholarships, when/how they have been utilized as well as the impact of their support.
I hope you’ve been inspired to think critically about how you can strengthen and make your scholarship/fellowship administration process more effective. If you already have a great process or have other suggestions to improve these procedures, please share in the comments below!