Manchester University


  • Founded in 1860
  • # of Funds: 300
  • Enrollment: 1345
  • AcademicWorks client since 2016

Goal: Streamline Scholarship Matching and Improve Donor Relations

Prior to implementing AcademicWorks, Manchester University relied on spreadsheets to track scholarship awards. A single employee from the student financial services office managed scholarships. This employee was in charge of managing awards along with several other job duties. In many cases, which scholarships to award was an afterthought. This resulted in several challenges:

1. If scholarships criteria were difficult to fill, sometimes the funds would go unawarded or would be awarded outside of donor criteria
2. Larger awards, such as a $20,000 scholarship, were often given to a single student rather than distributed to several qualifying students
3. If a scholarship recipient never arrived on campus, the award risked going unused

When Megan Sarber, Manager of Donor Relations, offered to take over the scholarship management process, the student financial services department was happy to give up the cumbersome task. As part of the transition, Sarber recommended implementing scholarship management technology.

A Solution For Fund Swapping

Manchester University uses a process called “fund swapping” to make scholarship awards. Rather than requiring the students to apply for individual scholarships, Manchester University notifies students how much aid they will be given. Then, Manchester University matches students with scholarship funds to meet that commitment.

Choosing AcademicWorks

“We looked at several different options, but decided to implement AcademicWorks because it would help us easily auto-match students to scholarships they were qualified for,” said Sarber. “We knew AcademicWorks could help us increase efficiency, improve accuracy, and award scholarships in line with donor intent.”

“Another reason we chose AcademicWorks was it’s integration with our student information system, Colleague® by Ellucian. Now, we have a centralized view of student data, which is automatically updated each night. I am much more confident that we are making the best use of donor contributions and distributing awards to the most qualified students.”

AcademicWorks automatically matches applicants who closely meet donor criteria with each award. If no students match donor criteria, Sarber receives a notification. Rather than having such funds go unawarded, Sarber can now deal with these situations on a case-by-case basis.

Even though the donor relations department has taken over the scholarship management process, AcademicWorks’ integration with Colleague® by Ellucian still allows student financial services to access data and provide final verification. Once all of the awards are made, students are notified via an automated email from AcademicWorks.

Improving Donor Relations: Thank-You Letters and Questionnaires Made Easy

Before implementing AcademicWorks, getting scholarship recipients to write thank-you letters and provide donors with basic information was a challenge. Although staff gave students multiple reminders, their requests often fell through the cracks.

With AcademicWorks, Manchester University addressed this problem by creating an automated workflow that requires students to complete a questionnaire and write a thank-you letter before funds are distributed to their account. The questionnaire allows students to answer more pointed questions with more meaningful responses to share with donors.

Manchester University’s questionnaire includes:
· Why did you choose to attend Manchester University?
· What are your favorite memories of your time at Manchester University?
· What are your future career goals?
· Please provide a note of thanks to the donor who funded this scholarship.
· Please upload a picture.

Today, Manchester University has a 90% completion rate for thank-you letters and information requests. Manchester University also has a wealth of information to provide donors in their annual donor report.


“A lot of change has taken place with our scholarship process over the past year and, AcademicWorks has been a cornerstone of making this a smooth transition,” said Sarber. “It is easy to have a central location to work with student financial services, scholarship recipients, and other offices on campus.
It’s great to have a partner that is just as committed to improving our process as we are.”