Community Foundations Transform Scholarship Operations in One-Day Virtual Cohort
This story is written by Lee Kuntz and was originally posted to the Innovation Process Design blog on June 5, 2020.
Process improvement coaching resolves challenges that impact foundation sustainability
My family learned that being awarded a scholarship is just the first step toward actually receiving funds. Prior to entering college, my son was awarded a scholarship administered by a community foundation. Over the course of his first three years in college, the foundation contacted us no less than a dozen times to get him that scholarship money. If his experience is typical, one can surmise that the task of administering the more than 1.5 million scholarships awarded annually in this country is cumbersome at best.
The Indiana Philanthropy Alliance’s GIFT Program shared with me that many of their members are squeezed by labor-intensive scholarship programs. When community foundations face these economic trials year after year, foundation sustainability can begin to erode.
Last week, eighteen leaders from five Indiana community foundations met online to confront these challenges head-on. Given the current pandemic, they participated from 16 different locations. We led them in plenary sessions and also had them work in breakout rooms at different points during the day.
An important step as we began our coaching was for each foundation to map its scholarship processes, enabling them to see what was really going on. Their eye-opening comments included, “How can it take this many steps and so many hours?” and “I didn’t know you were doing all that work.”
We then coached attendees to identify time traps—places where the work slowed and consumed massive capacity. Some key learnings were that existing software was not being fully used, duplicate and unclear roles were creating confusion and sapping work hours, and business policies such as sending students letters versus texted or emails were hurting the community foundation.
We asked these leaders to collaborate with their foundation colleagues and with others who attended this one-day event to identify solutions to their time traps. Through use of our templates, participants outlined a way to modify their current approach and institute a new approach. The four process transformation stages are as follows:
By the end of the day, participants shared how they decreased the work steps they planned to implement in their scholarship operations by 25% to 50%. Some of their changes will result in students receiving help and information via the technology they use every day. Scholarship fund owners will receive improved service and be able to award more scholarships. Community foundations will streamline operations and position themselves to do other important work in their community.
Participants were excited and encouraged about the new path they charted. One attendee said, “With everyone’s help, I now have a mind-blowing solution that will help both us and the students.” Another added, “Thank you, Lee. It was an enjoyable and productive day.”
Thank you to Terri Johnson, Rosemary Dorsa, and the Indiana Philanthropy Alliance’s GIFT Program for sponsoring this exciting event.
Interested in Recapturing Scholarship Capacity?
Any Indiana foundations interested in more information or being part of the next cohort can contact Terri Johnson for more information (317.630.5200). Contact Lee Kuntz to learn more about how your foundation can recapture capacity through transforming operations. Once their new scholarship process is implemented, these foundations will be more efficient and effective by recapturing hundreds of work hours.