Scholarship Fund Raises More Funds with Less Effort
Donald Demiri, Treasurer
About Gjergj Kastrioti Scholarship Fund
Founded in 1999, the Gjergj Kastrioti Scholarship Fund (GKS) is a volunteer-run organization that worked with NewPath Consulting to dramatically increase their impact, without adding to the volunteer workload.
Named after a national Albanian hero, GKS provides scholarships for Albanian-American students in the state of Michigan. It is run by a volunteer board of nine, several of whom are former scholarship recipients.
For fifteen years GKS organized golf days, dinners and various small fundraisers to generate money for the scholarship program. To be successful, these events required a lot of effort from the committed board and volunteers. They placed ads and made posters to generate awareness of the scholarship and events. Each scholarship ranged between $3,000 and $8,000.
The board wanted to increase fundraising by hosting a gala dinner in 2015. A gala would bring the Albanian community together as well as raise money for the scholarship. However, as a volunteer board, they had limited resources.
Board member Klementina X. Sula, through an existing relationship with Alex Sirota of NewPath Consulting, reached out for advice on how to automate the ticketing for the event.
“We weren’t sure how our community would adapt to online payments”, says board member Donald Demiri. However, in-person paper ticket sales were not practical. It would have caused delays at the door, and without an attendance commitment GKS couldn’t guarantee they could cover the dinner costs.
NewPath designed and deployed an online transactional form to record commitment to attend the gala.
For the big gala they took NewPath’s advice and marketed online to targeted attendees, driving them to the website to reserve tickets. They also continued with their previous tactics of postering at Albanian community centers, churches and mosques.
Within a few weeks of launching the online form they began to see website visits increase. The GKS board was nervous mounting the gala the first year as they didn’t know how much money they would raise. The evening was a success!
The mayor of the capitol of Albania was the guest speaker in front more than 250 guests. The event increased the profile of GKS within the community. The proceeds of the gala allowed them to give away $30,000 in scholarships that year, as well as provide funds for other activities. This was a triple increase over prior years.
Building Upon Success
Processing payments at the door the first year caused delays that the board thought could be alleviated with online payments. The success of the experiment showed that the community was ready for the move to electronic ticketing.
They reached out to NewPath Consulting again.
Alex created an extension to the GKS website that featured an online payment and event ticketing system. NewPath also created an online donation form. It took the GKS board longer to decide to go ahead with the website changes than actual implementation!
When GKS ran the 2016 fundraising gala, the board was not anxious when ticket sales were low three weeks before the event. Data analysis of the first gala revealed the majority of tickets were sold in the two weeks leading up to the event. They were confident this would be the case again; and it was.
”Alex was extremely helpful and always responsive, with a very high level of customer service. He got us thinking of different ways of doing things” says Donald.
Getting Smarter about the Scholarship Applications and Saving Time
After the success of the galas, the board engaged NewPath to streamline the process of finding applicants and scoring the submissions.
GKS had previously placed ads in community newspapers and postered in the universities to find applicants. The applicants would then have to mail in their submissions and the adjudicators would use a manual scoring system. If documents were missing, they would be requested and submitted by mail. This process was time consuming and frustrating for the adjudicators and applicants.
On NewPath’s advice, GKS placed low-cost Facebook ads to reach their target audience of Albanian students in Michigan and their families. They also sent emails using the attendee lists from the galas. Applicants were directed to the new online form created by NewPath.
GKS received three times the applications compared to when they sought applications manually.
All the documentation was submitted through an online form. This simplified the process for the students and the board. Applicants could ask questions by email and didn’t have to mail paperwork twice or print out supporting documents.
This reduced the workload for the adjudicators as the scoring was done in a Google spreadsheet that was integrated with the online application form. As a result, the whole application, adjudication and decision process took a lot less time.
"By using NewPath’s monthly software bundle and advice the scholarship was able to help twice the number of students and give out three times the amount of scholarship money." Donald Demiri, Board Member, GKS