Big Shoulders Fund Sees Exponential Growth of Scholarship Programming with FormAssembly
Case Study Snapshot
The mission of the Big Shoulders Fund is to provide access to quality, values-based education to Chicago’s children in need. Big Shoulders invests in four major areas – scholarships and enrichment, operational improvements, academic programs, and leadership development – with the goal of not just strengthening schools, but whole communities, and preparing students for life-long success.
In order to support these noteworthy goals, the staff at Big Shoulders Fund, through the generous support of a pro bono project with PwC, joined forces in an effort to automate their scholarship processes. Together, these teams sought technology solutions that would encourage sustainable growth and improve business processes. After the initial configuration, Big Shoulders Fund then teamed up with Exponent Partners for assistance with ongoing support and improved system optimization.
About Big Shoulders Fund
- Big Shoulders Fund is the largest K-12 scholarship organization in the city of Chicago.
- Since its founding in 1986, it has raised more than $400 million to create wider access to a network of quality schools for low-income students.
- Other areas of emphasis include scholastic support to students, enrichment programs, leadership development, and professional development for teachers.
growth in scholarship funds requested during the first year of implementation
applications received in 2018-19 school year
hours in manpower saved since implementation
pages of paper saved annually through automation
Manual Data Hassles and Lagging Connections
Kate and the team at Big Shoulders Fund were first introduced to FormAssembly as they sought solutions to digitize the scholarship application processes and saw a way to integrate scholar data to Salesforce without securing additional Salesforce licenses. FormAssembly opened a door to partner with stakeholders in an efficient and productive way, without overextending the organization’s financial resources.
Additionally, Kate recognized the power of FormAssembly and Salesforce when the two platforms were implemented side-by-side. Automated processes could make critical tasks, such as handling and uploading scholarship applications, significantly easier on a staff that was accustomed to entering data manually.
The organization’s primary audience, students and scholars, could move during a scholarship cycle. This meant that potential scholarship recipients were not always available when funds were ready. To keep up with changing statuses, Big Shoulders Fund required a digital solution to replace the old on-paper processes.
“[FormAssembly] has truly transformed the Scholarship Team from a paper to a digital team,” LaMantia said.
“[FormAssembly] has truly transformed the Scholarship Team from a paper to a digital team.”
Greater Efficiency for Every Need
Through Big Shoulders Fund, donors support up to 5,000 scholars per year. While these efforts do a significant amount of good within the Chicago education community, the behind-the-scenes work to collect applications and distribute funding is time-intensive.
The organization migrated from a system of paper application forms and Excel spreadsheets to seamlessly integrated data with FormAssembly and Salesforce. Not only did the new solution promote better data visibility, but it also helped mitigate problems when receiving thousands of incoming applications in a short window of time.
According to Kate, during the first year of automating the existing scholarship process, the team saw a 93% growth in scholarship funds requested.
“Automating our application not only allowed for growth, but seamless growth,” LaMantia said.
When they successfully launched the Tax Credit Scholarship application four years in a row, Big Shoulders Fund went from receiving roughly 3,000 applications in the 2017/2018 school year to receiving over 15,000 applications the following year. Much of that increase occurred during one 24-hour period, with Big Shoulders Fund receiving over 11,000 applications in a single day. In fact, the organization received over 6,000 responses in the first hour alone!
These metrics represent a 300 percent increase in a single day when compared to the number of applications received for the entire previous academic year. Due to the popularity of the scholarship application, the second year resulted in more than 6,000 applications received in the first nine minutes alone (once the form was live), and the third year witnessed an even greater increase with more than 7,500 applications in the first nine minutes. The most recent application launch in January 2021 saw the greatest increase, thus far, with over 9,700 applications received in the first nine minutes.
“Without powerful systems in place like FormAssembly and Salesforce, we would have never been able to achieve these results,” LaMantia said.
“Without powerful systems in place like FormAssembly and Salesforce, we would have never been able to achieve these results.”
With the help of Salesforce and FormAssembly, Big Shoulders Fund moved away from paper scholarship applications and saw dramatically increased response rates.
The primary use case for Big Shoulders Fund is processing the many scholarship applications they receive each year. To streamline this process even more, the team relies on FormAssembly features like the Salesforce Connector and utilizing the Post-Submit processing stage. Both have been transformative for the user experience, since data entry is automatic and any system errors can be quickly corrected without inconveniencing the respondent.
“What I love about FormAssembly is that the user experience is a truly simple form but the power is behind the scenes,” LaMantia said.
As part of the scholarship application use case, Big Shoulders Fund also reduced the number of data points that they collected from respondents. Simplifying means cleaner data, more value to the organization, and a reduction in manual efforts.
Having an existing system allowed for quick response when the need arose.
The team at Big Shoulders Fund also relies on FormAssembly features such as the ability to clone forms to make processes more repeatable. This structure became even more important as the team responded to the COVID-19 pandemic. Because the model was pre-existing, Big Shoulders Fund was able to offer emergency scholarship applications at a moment’s notice.
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the team has launched three different emergency fund scholarship applications to families affected by the virus, and they’ve received more than 1,000 applications requesting over $1.2M in scholarship funding.
In addition to tackling COVID-related issues as they emerge within the local education community, Kate hopes to branch out into other FormAssembly use cases. In the future, she hopes to help the group’s development team utilize FormAssembly, since they recently transitioned to Salesforce, as well.