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COVID-19 Concerns in Scholarship Management: Real Talk from Funders (March 25, 2020)

On March 25th, Scholarship Providers from our philanthropic community joined the Coffee Talk: Covid-19 Concerns in Scholarship Management to share resources, experiences, and creative solutions. We plan to continue this conversation through additional Coffee Talks through the coming weeks. For now, see what our community had to say:

(These comments were pulled directly from the session’s live audio and chat feeds. Find the full recording of this Coffee Talk here.)

New Application Deadlines

Jocelyn Capeles-Perez, Battle Creek Community Foundation - We are on hold, for new application deadlines, because of the means of dissemination...any ideas? 

Bettie Stammerjohn, Community Foundation of Greene County - We are just getting started with (Scholarship Lifecycle Manager) SLM. Because of doing our applications online we did extend our deadlines, our schools are extending their deadlines so we will maintain our April 15th deadline but we will wave our transcript deadlines because most students won't be able to get transcripts if they haven't already requested them. We are in discussion if we will wave letters of recommendation. I am told by a couple of school districts that we work with that all of the teachers (most students use teachers, coaches, or admin) will be able to respond to their emails. I have maintained contact with guidance counselors to get communications out to students about those deadlines.

Carol Sloper, Greater Northwest Kansas Community Foundation - We actually decided to keep (application deadlines) the same. Even though in the state of Kansas, school buildings were closed, the students still have access to the online application. Our review committees are all prepared to use Zoom to make decisions. The school counselors are reminding students, and we are emailing all students with drafts not submitted yet. 

Julia Da Silva, Triangle Community Foundation - Our deadline has passed (March 1) so we are not adjusting deadlines. Just moving committee meetings for April (for now) to virtual meetings and we sent a communication to all current recipients and applicants for this cycle about our timeline for selection and resources (financial aid and mental health). 

Kathy Kearny, SYL Foundation - We extended our deadline (which was 3/23) to April 3rd. We then gave leeway to submit an application that doesn't have the required documentation (FAFSA, Transcripts, Recommendation Letters). We also said we will allow unofficial transcripts and screenshots of online grade reports. 

Maureen Regan, Community Foundation of Greater Buffalo - We actually have a couple of different deadlines. We typically release checks to the high schools before award ceremonies. That deadline was originally April 15 extended to April 30th, we may be adjusting that. We have an online process that we are keeping the deadline because applicants themselves are able to upload grades from first and second quarter for high school or fall semester for college so students should be able to login to any student portals. We are looking at scholarships with outside members that are on committees, some are technically savvy.. some are not so we are not sure how we are going to approach committee members getting their recommendations into us. 

Lee ONeil, The Community Foundation of Fayette County - Our scholarship deadline was March 20th after every school started closing so since we were only a few days from our deadline we pushed it out two weeks. We felt we could still require transcripts although we are not requiring official transcripts. We changed our letters of recommendations to not require a signature but could use a computer generated signature from their recommender. We started putting extensions and deadlines on social media. Since it's online, it allows us to track down who has incomplete applications. 

Ann Marie White,  Horatio Alger Association -Fortunately(ish) our deadline was March 15th. We are trying to process those. The wonderful thing about the online application is we can open a single applicant and extend a single person's deadline so that's a nice thing about the program we use. Still trying to figure out how to fill our other scholarship, we are still trying to figure out what we're going to do with those students. Those are now students who aren't getting the support they need. On top of that we are running an emergency fund. 

Michelle Frederickson, Chautauqua Region Community Foundation - If you have a specific question on your scholarship application regarding the number of volunteer hours, are you changing the requirements ie. 52 to 30?

Moving to Online Evaluations

Austin Klososky, Community Foundation of Oklahoma - We have one giant scholarship application timeline that we do once a year, thank goodness the deadline was March 12th. Not a ton of issues...we are mostly running into getting transcripts for those last people who were applying right on the 12th. I just scheduled 500 evaluations yesterday and urged leniency on transcripts. We had a lot of donors reach out concerned about students not getting awards ceremony. We will distribute fancy certificates as an added thing since they don't get an award ceremony. I am interested to see how other groups who are transitioning to online evaluations are handling that.

Alyse Braaten, Foundant Technologies​ - What is one piece of advice to those who have never done online evaluations before?

Austin Klososky, Community Foundation of Oklahoma - Adding an attachment that gives them directions on how to login in or how to do it. These people are busy people and only do it once a year, so it's really helpful to cut down emails asking you about resetting passwords etc. 

Julia Da Silvia, Triangle Community Foundation - Foundant creates evaluator tutorials that are GREAT! 

Jocelyn Capeles-Perez, Battle Creek Community Foundation - We have been talking about Zoom award ceremonies. We just did a group of interviews this week, and the donor was thrilled by the process. 

Debbie Johnson, Boise Public Schools Foundation - We have a screenshot instruction attachment that works great for our evaluators.  Our evaluators always appreciate it.

Michele McGovern, Aldine Education Foundation - We have a couple things we are waving related to both our applications as well as our renewal awards. With our applications we were initially requiring face-to-face meetings with a counselor, seeing they can no longer meet we are waving that one requirement. We are still requiring letters of recommendations and transcripts since students can get them electronically. And then for the GPA typically we require a minimum GPA before they receive their next year's scholarship award given the situation with college closings..we are going to be very lenient with our GPA requirements. It would be a disservice to our students if they were negatively impacted with their financial resources by things so far out of their control. We realize a lot of students have limited access to computers or even wifi and internet access. 

College Decision Day

Phyllis McConn, Tahoe Truckee Community Foundation - Is there a good source to access to check on the status of college decision day? Googling the topic shows a national petition to postpone from May 1 to June 1. We cannot extend our app deadline of March 31 unless college decision day postpones. 

Anonymous - I haven't found a collective source for commitment deadline changes. But, I do know for example, that Gonzaga (in Spokane, WA) extended its deadline to June 1st.

Dissemination through Social Media

Jocelyn Capeles-Perez, Battle Creek Community Foundation - In terms of dissemination through social media, do you pay for ads? We use social media but within our followers, this means it does not necessarily get to new people unless others share.

Alyse Braaten, Foundant Technologies - Letting students know on your website, and through email, through all your other channels, that you will post updates on social media will get everyone looking in the same spot. 

Michelle - We are not paying for social media ads. We are tagging eligible students' schools and asking them to share broadly all announcements regarding our deadlines and other changes. 

Michelle Mcgovern, Aldine Education Foundation - We have extended our deadline, we are probably going to force our timeline to meet the May 1st requirement so we are going to work very hard this month to review over 1000 scholarships and make 300 awards so students are aware of their financial situation before committing to a college. We are going to do that because we feel our students need to know that information. 

Jennifer Marino, The Pittsburgh Foundation - We have done all of these things...not requiring transcripts, extending deadlines, emailing students. We did find it helpful to put a little money into social media ads and general advertising. We just started a test pilot to see if students will flow through Instagram to our Foundant application. So our communications department thought it was worthwhile to put a little bit of money towards that just to let all students know of the deadline extension. 

Cathy Fitzpatrick, Scranton Area Community Foundation - We did pay for social media ads to announce our extended deadlines

Bettie Stammerjohn, Community Foundation of Greene County - I did pay for an ad this time. In addition, I took the Facebook posts and tagged as many community board members as possible and it worked. They started tagging their friends and our numbers went up considerably. 

Conflict of Interest

Michelle Mcgovern, Aldine Education Foundation - We require all reviewers to read/sign a confidentiality/conflict of interest agreement before reviewing. How would others suggest we collect those with all reviewers moving to online evaluations.  

Bettie Stammerjohn, Community Foundation of Greene County - Is there a way to add the confidentiality and conflict of interest agreement for reviewers and have them sign that and send them back?

Kristin Aspin, Ashland County Community Foundation - For grants we use GLM and we actually created our forms using the GLM system and then we can just assign them like any other application. We needed a little help because we did it as a restricted process where only people with the passcode can access it. It basically just gets assigned! They go in to review it, sign it, date it and once they submit it, it's just there. And from there I have actually created reports to see all the forms collectively. It worked great!  

Lori Trenholm, Douglas County Community Foundation - I'd love to understand the internal COI form. Fantastic!

Foundant Platform

Jennifer Marino, The Pittsburgh Foundation - I’d like to know if there is anything that can be altered to allow students to more easily complete applications via cell phone in case they do not have computer access at home. This would be in addition to removing upload requirements. Is Foundant's platform fully functional in this capacity.  

Alyse Braaten, Foundant Technologies - I have had students fill out their entire application on their phone. Other then the uploads it does work very well. Admin can still access on mobile as well. 

Taylor Green, Cattaraugus Region Community Foundation  - We have sent out multiple emails to students. Opted to not extend the deadline, because of the fact that everyone will be working remotely, so that gave students and counselors two weeks to get their students applying. We do use social media for that as well. They can complete their applications online, my coworker can see the analytics online and can see that a lot of students are applying on their phone. 

Michelle Frederickson, Chautauqua Region Community Foundation - We use a texting service and can text 100's of students at a time.

About the Author

For more than a decade, Foundant Technologies has specialized exclusively in making philanthropy easier and more impactful through intuitive technology solutions. All of our cloud-based solutions focus on grantmaker, grantseeker, scholarship provider and community foundation needs with the goal to make day-to-day tasks streamlined and help maximize the impact of the philanthropic community.

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