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7 Best Practices for Managing Scholarship Funds

Better application management of scholarships, grants, awards, and more.

7 Best Practices for Managing Scholarship Funds

With the creation of any scholarship program, taking on the role of managing the funds for it is a significant responsibility. After all, there is a lot at stake from earning a good reputation with the community to ensuring the intended recipients receive these funds and everything in between. That said, in this post we’ll explore the seven best practices for managing scholarship funds properly and with ease.

1. Find the money first

It may seem obvious, but the first step in the best practices for managing scholarship funds is to actually find the money first. What does that mean exactly?

Your scholarship fund administration needs to determine the source of the fund that will eventually be used to award monies to recipients. Once you know where the money is coming from and how much you have to work with, you will be able to coordinate your actions such as:

  • Establishing your budget.
  • Determining how much money will be given out during each program period.
  • How much money the scholarship committee will use for salary and/or if all positions within it will be volunteer or paid positions.
  • And even, how to invest the initial monies for the highest good of all.

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Will the money be from one primary donor or several contributors? Perhaps your committee needs to begin outreach for seeking donations to your funds. Bottom line - before you can worry about how to manage scholarship funds, you need to have them secured and ready to work with.

2. Make your scholarship eligibility criteria clear beforehand

This is a very important step in the process of scholarship fund management for at least two reasons. First, your donors are going to want a clear idea of who the ultimate recipient of the money will be. For example, let’s say you want applicants who have already had a year or two of college classes and have strong GPAs and community service under their belt regardless of their socioeconomic status. A donor who expects the money to go to someone in financial need, fresh out of high school, and that is struggling to keep better than a B average would not be a good fit for your fund.

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Second, establishing the scholarship fund guidelines makes it much easier to write your pre qualification questions, marketing materials, and the application form itself. When everyone is crystal clear on the expectations of the best candidates the entire process is simplified. If on the other hand you have no idea of what you should be looking for in a scholarship candidate, or if your criteria is vague, then you are less likely to find recipients that you and your entire team will be comfortable with distributing funds to. It will also result in finding money for future program periods in the future more difficult.

3. Ensure that the application form is easy to submit

One of the reasons this step is in our best practices for managing scholarship funds is that you don’t want deserving candidates to slip through the cracks because of paperwork difficulty. You simply cannot afford to make applications that are difficult to fill out. When you do, the people who are more likely to be chosen as recipients might be discouraged from continuing the application process.

While the application form should be the same for everyone, it’s important that you take the time to ensure:

  • It’s not too complicated to fill out.
  • Submission of recommendations is a seamless process.
  • Deadlines are clear.
  • And the submission of the final application is as easy to complete as possible.

4. Don't be shy about advertising

While some scholarship program managers find it easy to secure funding, advertising their programs can be incredibly difficult. In the past, it was believed that the best way to find scholarship funds and perhaps applicants as well was through word of mouth. Unfortunately, it’s no longer enough to tell your friends, family, teachers, etc… about the scholarship program.

You need to make a splash to get the attention of your ideal candidates and potential donors. This can include, but should not be limited to:

  • sending press releases to local media.
  • telling the financial aid offices of colleges about your fund.
  • sharing updates on social media.
  • creating a well optimized website and blog so people can find your scholarship program and application.advertise

Cast your net as wide as necessary and keep getting the word out through any means necessary. However, make sure that your messaging is always clear so everyone who hears about your scholarship understands what you’re looking for in a candidate. Promoting it to the masses won’t do you any good if you’re making it seem like anyone and everyone has an opportunity to be selected as a recipient!

5. Evaluate the submissions (Selecting winners)

This is the least enjoyable step in the scholarship fund management best practices for most committees. You got into this venture because you want to help people, and it can be quite painful to turn people down. However, it’s critical to find the most deserving of candidates for the sake of everyone involved.

The evaluation stage is why establishing your criteria is so important early on - you don’t want to end up giving scholarships to people who completely do not meet the criteria that you were looking for. This can leave you and your donors frustrated and disappointed. In some cases, it can cause donors to pull out of future program periods, and in the worst cases it could lead to your entire scholarship program closing up shop.

To make quick work of this stage, it’s a good idea to use a scholarship management software like SmarterSelect to create a scoring rubric that will automatically filter out lesser qualified candidates. In the end, you will be left with the most deserving candidates and it will be easier to choose your final recipients.

Another critical component of this stage is to select a reviewing committee that has similar interests and backgrounds to that of your ideal candidate. Then, they can help you make the final judgments based on your clear criteria set up early on.

6. Award the scholarship

This stage is the one you’ve worked so hard for! It’s when you get to potentially change the life of a deserving recipient, and you want to make sure you get it right. Once you’ve gone through the painstaking process of selecting your recipients, reach out and let them know they have been selected. It’s a good idea to create a scholarship agreement and inform the recipients of all the requirements they must fulfill in order to receive their funds and/or how to go about receiving additional money in the future.

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For example, if your scholarship is a multi-year fund that pays out to a recipient for multiple semesters, recipients should be made aware of things like:

  • Whether or not they have to maintain a certain GPA to keep receiving funds.
  • What happens if they change their major?
  • What will happen if they switch schools?

It’s also a good idea to make it clear whether your fund will be cutting a check directly to the recipient, or if you will be sending the money to their intended school of attendance.

Transparency is key every step of the way in your scholarship program, so don’t leave anything to chance. The more thorough you can be with expectations, the better.

7. Use technology to evaluate the impact of your scholarships

Use your scholarship management software to send feedback requests to everyone that had a hand in this program period. Ask your committee to fill out a survey about their experience working on the program. Ask your candidates how they felt the program period went and what they thought of the application form and evaluation process. Take all of the knowledge you compile and you can create a report about the successes and/or failures of the program period.

Your report might also include things like:

  • A breakdown of candidates that applied by socioeconomic status, grade level, geolocation, field of study, etc…
  • The percentage of candidates who successfully completed/abandoned their application.
  • List of donors and the amounts they contributed.

You can also use your software to keep in touch with recipients to check in on their progress. Keeping in touch can help your word of mouth and advertising efforts as well as case studies for future marketing and donor messaging.

What’s next?

Now that you know the best practices for managing scholarship funds, we recommend purchasing scholarship management software. Good software will help make your job as a scholarship manager easier and faster. If you’re in the market for scholarship management software, we recommend SmarterSelect. See for yourself why hundreds of programs rely on us. Sign up and get started for free today!

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