Austin Community Foundation

Facts:

  • Location: Austin, TX
  • Number of Scholarship Funds: 100
  • AcademicWorks Customer Since 2016
  • Founded in 1977

Austin Community Foundation (ACF) began implementing the AcademicWorks Solution in 2016. “Our previous scholarship application and awarding process involved applicants emailing or delivering paper applications to our office and preparing and mailing packets for review committees,” says Shelby Bowman, Program Associate for ACF. “It was inefficient for students, reviewers and ACF staff.

Promoting Scholarships
“Before AcademicWorks we did not fully utilize our communications department because we were afraid that our small review team would be overwhelmed if we received too many applications,” says Bowman.

“This year we were able to send out personalized emails to community leaders with a link to AcademicWorks,” says Bowman. “AcademicWorks is making it easier for us to get the word out about scholarships available through Austin Community Foundation,” she said. “From now on we will be leveraging the communications team to increase applications,” says Bowman.

Application and Reviews
With AcademicWorks, 80% of the foundation’s scholarships are available using just one application.  To apply for the remaining scholarships, students answer just a few additional questions. There is no need for a separate application for each scholarship.

Scholarship applications are reviewed by various committees using AcademicWorks.  Each reviewer can log-in to access their assigned applications.  Each fund has different award requirements and review groups are in charge of making the final awarding decision.  Using scoring rubrics in AcademicWorks, they rank every applicant on a scale of 1-5 and the reviewers can add notes. Some groups get together to make their final decision after meeting as a team.

Students are notified of their scholarships through an email sent from AcademicWorks.  To receive their funds, students must provide some information to the foundation. This information includes the university they are attending, student ID, and donor thank-you letter.  “We encourage students to tell donors about how the scholarship will help them progress in their academic careers,” says Bowman.

Improving the Process

“As we went through the process of gathering scholarship information and scholarship requirements, we discovered that some of our donor agreements did not include the measurable criteria needed to make an award,” says Bowman. “The implementation of AcademicWorks helped us improve our practices so that now we require specific and measurable criteria when a new fund is established,” she says.

Outcomes with AcademicWorks
“AcademicWorks has been worth the implementation effort,” says Bowman. “Scholarship recipients use AcademicWorks to complete scholarship applications. With all applicant information in one place and scholarship criteria clearly defined, we are able to concentrate on getting checks out the door,” she says.

Now that they have a year’s worth of experience, Austin Community Foundation sees ways to continue improving their process. “We have some scholarships that have narrow criteria. We want to make sure all scholarships are awarded each year, so we can concentrate on getting more applications for restrictive funds,” says Bowman. For these very narrow scholarship criteria, they are going to work with donors to broaden the criteria of their restrictive scholarships.

The Foundation also plans to start requiring students to provide information about the school they will be attending and the impact scholarship funds will have on their education, before funds are released. These additional details will help strengthen donor relationships.

Simplify Scholarship Management

AcademicWorks continues to improve the way Austin Community Foundation manages their scholarships. Please contact us to see how we can assist your organization.