Scholarship Evaluation Committee Best Practices

AlyseBraatenAlyseBraaten
Solution Finder 25 Likes First Anniversary
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edited March 2021 in Grants & Scholarships

I've heard several clients ask some great questions about scholarship evaluation committees over the past few weeks. I'll note my understanding of the Best Practice below, but I welcome other opinions and discussion.

  1. Committee Composition for Donor Funded Scholarships: Is it ok for a donor to be the only person selecting scholarship recipients from their fund? - I believe the answer here is no. The committee needs to include a majority non-family of the donor. This relates to some IRS regulations, but I'm no attorney, so I'll refrain from trying to be more specific.
  2. How many people should be reviewing each application?- The Best Practice is 2-3, though it can definitely be more. Without doing a lot of training and score norming exercises with your evaluators, it's not generally a good idea to have only one reviewer per applicant. This is because reviewers bring their own expectations and biases to their reviews. You want at least two sets of scores for the student so that those scores can be averaged. Ideally, you also wouldn't want the same teams of 2 evaluating large groups of students together for the same reason.

I'm sure there are more questions and answers on this topic. Let's open up the discussion together!

Alyse Braaten | Manager of Client Services – Grants & Scholarships | www.foundant.com | Bozeman, MT

[email protected] | Direct: 406.922.3376 | Cell: 661.364.1012

KaraAdamsKellieutzinger

Comments

  • Alyse Braaten | Manager of Client Services – Grants & Scholarships | www.foundant.com | Bozeman, MT

    [email protected] | Direct: 406.922.3376 | Cell: 661.364.1012

    KaraAdams
  • Regarding #1, yes, the donor and parties related to the donor must comprise a minority of the committee for scholarships administered by charitable organizations. This stems from the Pension Protection Act of 2006.

    Our committees generally have 3-5 members. In rare cases, we have 7 (for example, if we have 3 donor representatives, we must have 4 community members unrelated to the donors). When we set up new scholarship funds, we encourage one donor representative and two community volunteers. Three seems to be a good, manageable number for scholarship committees.

    We also let our committee members know that they must alert us if they are related to any of the applicants they are reviewing. In those cases, they sit out that year, and we appoint a back-up to replace them on the committee.

    I'd love to hear other best practices!

    Laurie Abildso

    Vice President

    Your Community Foundation of North Central West Virginia, Inc.

    KaraAdamsKevinVahlbuschAnnKvachJodiKateiva
  • @LaurieAbildso

    I have a quick follow-up question Laurie. In your committees of 3-4. Does every member review every application or do they divide them up among the members? How many will end up actually reviewing each application?

    Alyse Braaten | Manager of Client Services – Grants & Scholarships | www.foundant.com | Bozeman, MT

    [email protected] | Direct: 406.922.3376 | Cell: 661.364.1012

    KaraAdams
  • Great question, @AlyseBraaten! For all of our current committees, members currently review every application. We have a couple of opportunities we are considering dividing among members to ease the review burden, but we have not done that yet. I'd love to learn best practices from others who have divided applications among committee members.

    Laurie Abildso

    Vice President

    Your Community Foundation of North Central West Virginia, Inc.

    KaraAdamsLacyChapman
  • @AlyseBraaten Do you know of any SLM users who divide an opportunity-group (I have no idea what else to call them LOL) of applicants into multiple groups for review? Like @LaurieAbildso, I'm considering this practice for a few opportunities that receive a high volume of applications. I can't decide if I want to move forward or not. I was thinking about doing a random division into two equal groups (or, equal-ish, if it's an odd number of applicants) and assigning them to three reviewers/group. I don't know what's holding me back, so any advice would be appreciated!

    LaurieAbildsoKaraAdamsAnnKvach
  • Great question @AudraClodfelter! I used this workflow myself for several years prior to the invention of Universal Application and review committees. The "committee" created and set in your Universe can be thought of as the list of possible reviewers for that scholarship. You don't have to assign any request to all members of that committee.

    I regularly assigned students in batches to 2-3 committee members for review. I knew my reviewers really well and tried my best to set up reviewer groups (or mini committees) to ensure fair and balanced evaluation of students. If you don't know your reviewers very well, I would lean towards having 3 reviewers minimum in each group and just ensure they aren't all members of the same family, teachers at the same school, or had some other unintended commonality.

    As you assign evaluators, you'll see the count of how many requests they have been assigned. This can be really helpful to ensure that the volume stays balanced and can help with redistribution if you have a reviewer that decided at the last minute to participate in the process.

    This is not an abnormal workflow and can be a great strategy to help combat the reviewer fatigue that can affect scoring when a person or committee have exceedingly long lists of student applications to read and score.

    Alyse Braaten | Manager of Client Services – Grants & Scholarships | www.foundant.com | Bozeman, MT

    [email protected] | Direct: 406.922.3376 | Cell: 661.364.1012

    AnnKvach
  • Thanks, @AlyseBraaten! I think I will use this with my upcoming evaluations!!

    KaraAdamsAlyseBraaten
  • @AudraClodfelter @LaurieAbildso Our review committee for our financial need based scholarships usually has 6-8 folks on it, when we review we split the main committee into two subcommittees - one to review high school applicants and one to review college applicants. Back before the time of UA we always thought of our financial need scholarships as one pool of money since they have the same eligibility criteria which are different from our merit based scholarships, so we split the funds available in half and each subcommittee awards their funds independent of the other subcommittee. It has worked really well for us! Our evaluators struggled with how to compare a high school senior to a college junior so now it's more of an apples to apples comparison for them as they work through the applications. In SLM, I've only sent 1 of their 6 financial need applications to the evaluators so they aren't spending time looking at more than 1 application for a student. I hope that makes sense!

    LaurieAbildsoKaraAdamsAlyseBraaten
  • This is a great discussion thread! We also usually have reviewer committees of 3 people. We have a few scholarships where the donors have requested more than one of their family members be involved and like others, in that case we just have to have at ladsts 51% be community volunteers with no involvement with that fund.

    Another best practices question - how does your organization handle it if there is only one truly qualified candidate for a scholarship? Do you deem that student the awardee automatically? Do you still ask reviewers to score their application?


    Thank you!

    Elizabeth

    ELIZABETH MESSERLI

    Donor Services Manager

    Community Foundation of Northern Colorado

    KaraAdams
  • LaurieAbildsoLaurieAbildso
    Conversation Starter 25 Likes First Anniversary
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    edited March 2021

    Hi @elizabethmesserli! We do have reviewers rate the applicant even if there is just one, but I'm curious to hear what others do!

    Laurie Abildso

    Vice President

    Your Community Foundation of North Central West Virginia, Inc.

    elizabethmesserli
  • If we have only one applicant that qualifies we awarded the monies to that applicant. We also verify that every part of the criteria is met before that determination is made.

    KaraAdamselizabethmesserli
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