• Simplify Your Day-to-Day by Leveraging the Cloud

    Whether you’re a foundation serving a unique constituency or an accredited college or university serving your student body, being able to efficiently award your applicants is a time-consuming, multi-layered process. You have to juggle applicants (who may be using many varying applications), piece together their final submission, figure out how to match them to the various awards you offer, and get them scored and awarded, all while keeping your donors in the know and satisfied with your approach. More than likely, you’re doing this with too small a staff, or in some cases, entirely on your own. This can be frustrating for everyone involved as your applicants may be confused, your donors may be lacking valuable insight, and, most importantly, you may be inundated with the volume of work and the dollars you’re leaving on the table un-awarded.

    To exacerbate the issue, it’s difficult to rely on your own IT team to deliver tools you need to ease the tension that exists in the award management process. To be fair, in a vast majority of cases, this isn’t even your IT team’s fault as they are also spread too thin and have too many competing priorities to properly service your organization. In many instances, the combination of supporting a large Student Information System (SIS), coupled with managing the core custom applications the IT organization has built, is too herculean a task to keep tackling – leaving smaller custom applications or the management of other infrastructure by the wayside and core systems in “maintenance mode”.

    There’s a solution for these problems, however. Leveraging a cloud-based platform to manage a business-critical task like award management can benefit your organization in two meaningful ways:

    1. Your new partner will focus exclusively on the problem you’re trying to solve
    2. Your cloud-based provider meaningfully reduces the burden on internal IT.

    Let us take a few minutes to better understand these benefits.

    Cloud Partners & Focus

    When you decide to take a core operational process, in this instance, your award management process, to a cloud partner, you should immediately presume some significant benefits. I’ll outline some key benefits in a moment, but first I want to talk about why these new benefits even exist. The answer, quite simply, is focus.

    As a cloud-based, or more accurately, a Software as a Service or SaaS, partner ourselves, we focus solely on delivering the best awards management platform we can possibly deliver. We over-focus on scholarships as our “awards” as that’s been our historical area of expertise, but we think largely about focusing on award management as many other award types are analogous to scholarships. Everything we do can be traced back to building the best possible awards management platform and delivering user-focused, friendly, and personalized onboarding and support. We aren’t bogged down by other products or competing internal initiatives. That’s a level of focus very few, if any, internal IT teams can provide. This level of focus allows you, as a user of a SaaS awards management platform, to make positive, meaningful changes to your day-to-day.

    Time Spent (we like to call this “Time Recovered”). When you start to take advantage of the benefits of a SaaS awards management platform, you should immediately see a shift in how you spend your time. Staff that normally tracks down completed applications, collates submissions, matches applicants to awards, coordinates reviewers and their scores, and makes awarding decisions can now rely on the platform to do a majority of this heavy lifting. This allows you and your team more time to spend helping students find the path to financial support and engaging with your donors to either drive increased gifting or identify new donor sources, or both.

    Constant Innovation. Having a partner that provides this kind of focus should also guarantee you that you’ll be provided new features to help increase your efficiency, drive more completed applicants, connect you to your donors, and provide you insight into your performance. These kinds of enhancements, both to your software and the support you receive for it, are difficult to achieve with an internally developed solution.

    A Trusted Partner. Here are some quotes that may seem cliché, but will ring true with any good SaaS partner: “We’re in it with you.” or “Your success is our success.” A good partner will always think this way. In our example, every single staff member likes to think of themselves as an extension of your office. Our onboarding and support teams want to understand your application, your opportunities and awards, and your constituents as well as you understand them. By embedding ourselves in your unique processes, we create a really interesting feedback loop: We learn your operations and become experts in your processes. » This knowledge gives us ideas for how to better build our SaaS platform and improve our support processes. » These improvements create more efficiency for you and your team.

    Reducing IT Burden

    You might be wondering how exactly adding a SaaS partner to the mix can reduce the burden on your IT staff. There’s actually quite a bit of research that has gone into this, and there’s a particularly good white paper that was released by Oracle in 2014 that covers these concepts in significant detail in case you’re interested in exploring it further (or if you’d like to provide some additional supporting data to your own IT team when pitching the concept of using cloud services). But on the surface, the benefits for your IT team boil down to a few key points:

    Staff Reduction or Repurposing. By moving core business processes to the cloud, your IT team can either get along with fewer resources thanks to the smaller internal IT footprint or these IT folks can be repurposed to focus on other core initiatives.

    Reduced Operating Costs. As your organization embraces the cloud, your IT team will see their footprint reduced, which drives down expenses on physical infrastructure, licenses, and other overhead related to hosting and maintaining business-critical applications.

    Improved Performance and Scalability. When you partner with a SaaS provider, performance and system availability generally become cornerstones of delivery. For example, we pride ourselves on building specific Service Level Agreements (SLAs) into our contracts that give our partners something tangible to expect out of the performance of our platform. In order to meet these requirements, your SaaS partner must keep their environments flexible to scale as you grow (and their volume of partners grows).

    Hopefully the tangible benefits I’ve outlined that are created by a partnering with a focused SaaS provider encourage you to take the plunge into moving your awards management processes to the cloud. Taking this step not only benefits you and this core business process, but also helps reduce the strain on your IT staff, creating wins across your organization, and most importantly with your applicants and donors. And for what it’s worth – we’d love it if you took the plunge with us. Drop us a note if you’d like to hear more.

    Thanks, and come join us in the cloud.

    Kurt Reilly
    Co-Founder & CEO

  • AwardSpring and Arbor Day: The Positive Environmental Side Effect of Optimizing Scholarship Management

    We here at AwardSpring pride ourselves on providing a platform and corresponding world-class service to organizations seeking a meaningfully optimized approach to managing their scholarship offerings. By nature (pun intended), we’re also able to help reduce the impact on the environment through the reduction of paper waste by transitioning organizations from paper-based, manual processes to a digital, paperless system.

    Let’s say you’re an organization with a 5-page application that garners 250 applicants. And, because you haven't optimized your application down to a single questionnaire (like you can with AwardSpring, wink wink), you have 4 different applications to cover the dozens of scholarships you offer. This means you are receiving, at minimum, 5,000 sheets, or 10 reams, of paper per award cycle. (Also consider shipping materials required and fossil fuel emissions generated to ensure those applications are delivered!)

    So, what does that mean for the environment? Research shows that every adult pine tree, the standard tree used for making paper, can produce about 15-20 reams of paper. If you can eliminate 10 reams of paper from use in one award cycle alone, you’re saving almost one entire tree from needing to be used for paper. Imagine what our industry can accomplish if we move scholarship management online and away from paper-based application processes!

    The best part? This is simply a positive side effect of our core mission to provide customers with a remarkably easy-to-use, cloud-based scholarship management platform that drives an increased number of applicants, and decreased workloads for you, your administrators, and your reviewers.

    We call that a win-win.

    Happy Arbor Day from the AwardSpring Team!

  • Post-award Best Practices

    Managing your awarded applicants can be a time-consuming process. You might need to collect required documents from students, ensure that they still meet minimum qualifications, or have students formally accept your awards. You might need to create information packets for awardees to give them next steps. Some scholarship managers even need to plan events to publicly honor the students who have been awarded.

    All of these moving pieces can add up to a lot of manual work on your part. Creating a plan for what items you need in advance of your awarding period will allow you to use your time and effort in a more effective way. Here are some common types of follow-ups that you might want to incorporate into your process.

    Instructions for follow-ups Clear and concise steps will be helpful to ensure that you get all the correct items from each awardee. This will limit the amount of back and forth required to collect everything you need. Additionally, you could pass out information about next steps. Can the student be awarded a second payment for their scholarship? Are they allowed to apply again in future cycles? It is a good idea to spell out this information to reduce confusion for your awarded students.

    Thank you letters The most commonly collected items from students are thank-you letters. These letters are not only a great way to drive donor engagement, they also create collateral to demonstrate how important the scholarship management process is in helping students. Awardees will have an easier time writing effective letters if you have provided them with information about the donor that they are thanking or some guidelines on writing a well-crafted letter.

    Award acceptance forms If you need a student to formally accept an award before you can make a payment, you might want to consider creating a form that they can sign, either physically or electronically and return to you.

    Headshots for publicity The ability to create marketing materials for your scholarship program can help bolster your donations and attract new donors to your foundation or institution. If you want to include photographs in these marketing materials, you can request them directly from the student. Keep in mind that you might also need to ask them to sign a photo release to publish their image.

    Event RSVPs If you need to plan a scholarship award ceremony, it will be very helpful for you to know the exact number of guests to plan for. This follow-up will allow students to tell you if they can attend the event and how many people they are going to bring.

    School bursar address If you need to send the scholarship check to the college or university that the student is attending, instead of to the student’s home address, this is a good time to collect that information.

    Qualification validation Some scholarships have criteria that need to be met which a student might not have proof of during the application period. For example, if one of your scholarships has a requirement that the student be accepted into a particular program or school, the student might have only recently been accepted. You can collect this additional information during the awarding period to confirm they do in fact meet the requirements of the scholarship.

    All of these follow-ups, and many more, can be included in a packet that you physically mail or email to students at the time that you notify them of the award. This packet can be reused with minor updates from year to year which will save you time in the current cycle and streamline the process for years to come.

    If you are currently an AwardSpring customer or are interested in becoming one, be aware that we have functionality in our system to automate the follow-ups process. You can collect all materials online as well as provide any necessary documents or instructions. Additionally, you can review student answers and pass back to the student for additional attention if there is something missing or they have missed the mark.

    We’ve worked with our clients to provide suggestions, help adapt platform features to fit their processes, and even facilitate conversations with other clients. If you are interested in learning more about AwardSpring to determine if it meets your scholarship management needs, please email inquiries@awardspring.com. If you are a current customer, please don’t hesitate to reach out to our support team to schedule a strategy call to talk through any questions or concerns you may have.

    Cass Montemagni
    Implementation & Training Specialist

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