The Greater Kansas City Community Foundation offers over 120 scholarships each year to members of their community and is dedicated to helping donors make the greatest impact in alignment with their wishes.
Before AcademicWorks the foundation had the technology to help them manage scholarships, but they faced a variety of challenges. The biggest issues were limited functionality and inability to access key data they needed throughout the scholarship cycle. The limited functionality made it difficult to make awards and communicate with applicants.
“I would have to generate giant reports and create mail merge documents to send students paper award letters,” stated Rosisella Blakney, Scholarship Coordinator for the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation. “Because of this limited functionality our awarding process was extended, we were uncertain if students received their letters, and it was really difficult to ask students to provide follow up information”.
It was also difficult to track down students to make their 750 renewable awards each year. The other major challenge for the foundation was reporting, as the previous provider only gave them two big reports that gave them more information than they needed to answer simple questions. Small data questions turned into hours of work.
The foundation implemented AcademicWoks in 2016 to increase the automation of processes and make it easier to access the information they needed every day. Students within the community are able to submit their applications online. The foundation uses social media and workshops within area high schools to get the word out about their opportunities.
Once scholarship applications are submitted, there is a dedicated selection committee for each fund that uses Academicworks to access, read, and score the applications online. Selection committees can decide to create their own rubric or to use the standard scoring rubric.
“Reviewers love reviewing through AcademicWorks and have nothing but good things to say,” said Blakney. “When we first communicated that we were moving reviews online there was a group of committee members who were worried about learning how to use technology, but after a quick tutorial this group is easily up and running and loves completing the online process.”
Once the committee makes their selection, the student will be notified of their award. With the notification, students must log in online to accept the award and provide supplemental information. This information includes where they plan to attend college, intended major, expected graduation date, and student ID number.
“If I need to remind a student or communicate with a student, this can be done directly within AcademicWorks,” said Blakney. “A paper trail will document all communications with the student.”
Once the scholarship recipient has submitted the follow-up questions, the administrators within the foundation can quickly download a report from AcademicWorks. This report can then be easily uploaded into their FIMS foundation management software so that the funds can be disbursed. Checks are cut and sent in July so they arrive to the school by the time the student arrives on campus.
If a student is eligible for a renewable award, they will receive an email directly from AcademicWorks requesting they send their college transcript and answer a few additional questions to ensure they continue to meet award requirements. Once students submit this information, the foundation’s administration can quickly create a report that is sent to FIMS to disburse the funds. “This process has made it much easier to make our 750 renewable awards each year!” explained Blakney.
The biggest difference between using AcademicWorks and their previous provider is that the ability to quickly and easily access information through reporting.
“We save hours of scrambling when a donor asks ‘who were all of the applicants for my award this year?'” said Blakney. This information can be sent to the donor in a matter of minutes. They can also quickly answer questions such as “how much money was awarded last year?”. This saves considerable time for the limited staff to complete big tasks such as the annual report in a matter of minutes versus hours.
“Within the past year, the assets to the foundation have increased $5.5 million,” stated Blakney. Donors have mentioned their applicant pools have not only increased but the quality of applicants has also improved. In some cases, they end up supporting more students than they originally planned because they see so much potential in the applicant base.