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Stewarding Scholarship Donors - A Rewarding Experience

There are many elements that comprise a comprehensive donor relations program in higher education. Among the various aspects, I personally find stewarding scholarship donors to be the most fulfilling, specifically donors who have established and continue to fund annual and endowed named scholarships. I say this because this stewardship process allows me to share with both donors and recipients in experiencing the impact of scholarship support.

The case for scholarship support is clear. Colleges and universities must focus on generating scholarship dollars to assist students in overcoming financial obstacles that threaten their matriculation. The vision and generosity of scholarship donors enable the institution to provide financial support for these students as they struggle to cover their educational costs. This I know, scholarship donors receive great satisfaction in partnering in the institution’s educational mission and delights in knowing that their philanthropic investment yields the gift of opportunity to deserving young scholars.

While most scholarship sponsors would say that a special joy comes with personally meeting the beneficiaries of their support, this may not always be possible. They may be unable to attend the annual scholarship event (where donors and student recipients meet), or personally connect with their recipient on another occasion. Therefore, the annual scholarship report is a necessity to an educational institution’s stewardship program. These reports are a great tool for highlighting the tangible impact of scholarships and nurturing an emotional connection between the donor and the student who has been helped by their support.

Each fall at my institution, the Office of Donor Relations works diligently to produce personalized and impactful stewardship reports for endowed and annual named scholarships. These reports are welcomed reading for donors or contacts for the scholarship funds. To produce these reports, Donor Relations works closely with Student Financial Services and Business and Financial Services to ensure that accurate information is included in the reports. The report includes a fiscal statement reflecting details of the fund, scholarship recipient information and photos, personal expressions of appreciation from scholarship recipients, a message of impact and an institutional update. Well-crafted stewardship reports demonstrate to donors the positive impact of their gifts, that their contributions are being used according to their intent, that their generosity is appreciated, and that there are opportunities for their continued support. Consider the following steps when developing your scholarship stewardship reports. Because this can be a considerable project, I recommend that you develop a work flow calendar to track tasks and stay on target for completing the project.

Annual and Endowed Scholarship Reporting

Five Steps in Preparing a Well Developed Scholarship Report

1. Develop The Vision For The Report – Conveying The Message

  • Express Gratitude

  • Describe Use of Support

  • Provide Recipient and Fiscal Information

  • Emphasize Impact of Gift

2. Determine Who Will Receive The Report

  • Access the Database for Donor Information

  • Segment Donors by Annual Scholarships and Endowed Scholarships

3. Engage Colleagues For Assistance And Information

  • Business and Financial Services –

  • audited fund reports (endowment fund reports should include performance of the endowment and annual reports should include fund update)

  • institutional financial updates and charts

  • Student Financial Services – scholarship recipients

  • Development Writer – assist in writing text for items in step #1

4. Determine Design And Components Of The Scholarship Report

  • Including Report Cover, Letter of Introduction from Leadership (including a hold the date for the annual scholarship event), Message of Impact, Financial Updates (both institutional and scholarship fund), Scholarship Recipient Profile, Photo, and Expression of Appreciation or Testimonials from Recipient

  • An Attractive Design - with color, photos, charts and quotes

5. Finalize The Report

  • Edit and Proofread

  • Print and Assemble Package

  • Deliver/Mail to Donor

  • Enter Stewardship Activity Code in Database and PDF Copy of Report

Consistently funded annual and endowed scholarship funds provide a perpetual source of financial resources for your educational institution, and assistance for students. They are often established by a donor to honor or memorialize someone, or to serve as a testament to the donor's own educational experience. In other words, these funds tend to hold great personal meaning and attachment for donors and their family members. That is why expressing gratitude and emphasizing impact through scholarship reports is so crucial in retaining or even increasing your donors’ support.

What are you doing to steward your scholarship donors. I’ve outlined the steps to follow in preparing annual scholarship reports, however there are other activities and events that can be helpful in further engaging scholarship donors. I mentioned earlier and recommend that you include an annual scholarship celebration as part of your scholarship stewardship program. I guarantee that having an opportunity to get to meet their recipient(s) and hearing compelling testimonies from student speakers will go a long way in promoting the philanthropic spirit of your scholarship donors and ensure their ongoing support of the institution. And if you are like me, you will find that stewarding scholarship donors and interacting with grateful scholarship recipients is one of the most rewarding initiatives of donor relations and stewardship.

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