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Bridging The Gap Between Financial Aid And Advancement

Enhancing the Relationship between Financial Aid and Advancement

At some colleges and universities, the scholarship awarding process is a collaborative effort between departments. This is not always the case. Typically, the financial aid and advancement offices play the largest role in the scholarship process. Many times, the financial aid office and the advancement office each maintain separate databases of scholarship information.  It’s important to have a good working relationship between these two offices.  Student and Donor relations go hand in hand: if you can form strong teams, more scholarships get awarded to the ‘right’ applicants with more satisfied donors.

Generally, financial aid is most involved in supporting student questions, advertising scholarships, verifying applications with student records, providing final approval for awards, and making final scholarship award decisions.   On the other hand, the advancement office is more involved in collecting & submitting “thank-you” letters to donors, supporting student questions, advertising scholarships, and working with donors on scholarship criteria. Joint communication between the financial aid and advancement offices is key to the success of the Scholarship Program. It requires a large coordinated effort on most campuses to successfully get the word out about scholarships.

A multi-tiered approach is a great way to enhance the relationship between departments at your institution. Below are some suggestions for improving this relationship and communication:
  • Create a timeline of activities and deadlines for the departments involved to keep them on the same page
  • Hold joint training sessions led by both Advancement and Financial Aid
  • Have annual scholarship content review meetings to confirm criteria
  • Coordinate preparation for Scholarship events (such as the Donor Dinner)
  • Monitor scholarships and students (enrollment)
  • Conduct “Walk A Mile in My Shoes” programs for Advancement and Financial Aid
  • Create a ‘scholarship network’ - a group that meets quarterly and shares information between departments
  • Form a cross-functional team of staff from both Financial Aid and Advancement who meet regularly and discuss processes at least twice per year
  • Outline a process whereby they make the Advancement office the starting point for questions on developing new scholarship opportunities. The Financial Aid office is the starting point for questions about available scholarships

All of these suggestions can be boiled down into a couple Key Take Aways, that will ultimately help you bridge the gap between disparate departments:
  • Develop an understanding of the process and who plays a role in each part
  • Openly Communicate across departmental lines
  • Improve the use of newer technologies

If these three things can be accomplished, not only will your organization benefit from fresh collaborative efforts, but more scholarships will get awarded to the 'right' applicants, leading to more satisfied donors. 

If you'd like to talk to other other customers about how they accomplish this, let us know and we can put you in touch!

Content Written by Mary Brown, Customer Success Manager

Posted by Mike Weisman on Dec 13, 2018 1:11 PM America/New_York

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I am just beginning to get into the scholarship side of our Foundation and I am glad to see this template for departments working together! 
  • Posted Wed 27 Mar 2019 10:38 AM EDT
This is definitely something we need to work on. Our financial aid department even sends out its own solicitation letters separate from our Development appeals.
  • Posted Wed 03 Apr 2019 11:32 AM EDT
We find that communication is a key component between financial aid and advancement. If we did not have proper communication, it would result in failure. Thank you for this blog!
  • Posted Thu 25 Apr 2019 05:57 PM EDT