Dollars for Scholars Works on “Expanding Your Reach” at Affiliate Conferences
The fall air may be turning crisper at Scholarship America headquarters in Minneapolis, but that hasn’t stopped the national travels of Dollars for Scholars staff for “Expanding Your Reach,” this year’s Dollars for Scholars regional affiliate conferences.
Dollars for Scholars affiliate representatives attend the
“Expanding Your Reach” features a full day of presentations and discussions to help affiliates build capacity, develop partnerships and increase impact on students. Thus far, Scholarship America Dollars for Scholars staff and guest speakers have joined affiliates from New York, Iowa and Minnesota, with five more conferences to come. Along the way, team members have been encouraged to see old friends and meet new ones. They’re also regrouping and sharing the following conference highlights!
Friday evening sessions are proving beneficial. This year, “Expanding Your Reach” has introduced a bonus Friday evening session at most conference locations. This special discussion is geared toward affiliate officers on good board governance. And, according to Amy Ronnkvist, Scholarship America Affiliate Support Specialist, the sessions have been a hit.
“These sessions have really been addressing the core foundation of affiliation,” Amy said. “We’ve gotten a lot of positive response about the sessions.” With a smaller subset of conference attendees, Friday participants have the chance to hear directly from Scholarship America staff regarding board responsibilities and capabilities. They’ve also been gaining perspective from other affiliates who share how their boards operate.
Collegiate Partners sessions have been illuminating for everyone. One major goal of this year’s conferences is to further understanding of Collegiate Partners, a network of more than 350 postsecondary institutions that agree to treat scholarships awarded through Dollars for Scholars and other Scholarship America programs fairly. So far, we haven’t just met that goal, but gone beyond it, with affiliate ideas generating action items for expanding the program’s reach.
“People are really excited about the growing the program,” Amy said. “We’ve even created some initial materials based on the discussions we’ve had.”
“Expanding Your Reach” features two opportunities to learn more about Collegiate Partners: an opening plenary session with Collegiate Partners local to the conference’s state or region, and a morning breakout session on student financial aid, which furthers the conversation from the plenary session.
On top of affiliates and staff benefitting from the discussions, Collegiate Partners have also been impressed with affiliates. They’ve gained further insight into how dedicated Dollars for Scholars volunteers are and how they operate. “One Collegiate Partner even asked, ‘How do I start a chapter?'” Amy added.
Breakout sessions help affiliates gauge future potential. Over the past several years, Dollars for Scholars made a significant jump from paper to the Web with ChapterNet, a set of technology tools designed to streamline scholarship management for affiliates. Affiliates were also working on new affiliation requirements. This made last year’s affiliate conferences a time for learning and implementation. But, as the name “Expanding Your Reach” implies, this year’s affiliate conferences have been markedly different.
“Last year was more about training conferences,” Amy said. “This year is more about future potential: how affiliates partner with one another, with Scholarship America and with Collegiate Partners to maximize the impact on students.”
The national focus presents a number of topics for how to best support students, and afternoon breakout sessions provide the space for those ideas. The topics, ranging from endowments to serving students with greatest need, invite affiliates to consider how they’ll build their future. “It’s for affiliates to say, ‘What could this mean for our affiliate? How do we go about it?'” said Amy.
And, according to staff, it’s been encouraging for affiliates to hear from one another — not only to know they’re not alone, but to be reenergized and re-familiarized with the impact Dollars for Scholars can make in their community.