Banking on the Future Scholarship Program
Banks are approached daily for donations to local organizations and charities. Many already have their own programs. All too often, these donations are not leveraged to achieve goals or enhance the brand.
A local community bank, Mechanics Savings Bank, had an existing scholarship program for local high school students. Unfortunately, the bank rarely received any credit.
Mechanics Savings Bank offered a scholarship program for over a decade. The program suffered from lack of internal ownership. Over time, scholarships awards were delegated to High School guidance counselors. Employees of the bank rarely if ever were on hand to award the scholarship at graduation ceremonies.
The sums awarded were not small. The program in 2008 awarded 12 one-thousand dollar scholarships.
Rinck worked on developing a new award rubric with the new CEO/President. The new CEO asked Rinck to promote the awards under the Public Relations retainer.
The new rubric looked at the blue-collar community and other awards being offered. Many of the other awards used a blend of GPA and Community Service or Sports Participation as a basis for award.
Rinck recommended a completely different approach.
- Award baseline GPA of 2.0 or greater. This is quite a bit lower than most scholarships. Mechanics wanted to open up education for young adults that weren't the "superstars."
- Scholarship for college OR community college. To the CEO, higher education needed to start somewhere.
- Family life and work considered equally with community service. For many young people in the area, sports or activities are not realistic as families struggle to make ends meet. Having an after school job counted equally.
- Two references. We wanted to know the kids a lot better than using the existing scholarship format.
- Board of Director voting on finalists. The new CEO wanted to use the scholarship as a means to create board involvement with the goals of the bank and community, not just one strata of the community. The applications and reference letters served to "keep it real" in bank footprint.
- Bank presence at the scholarship awards.
- An online application procedure to streamline the process and create an all-year and historical reference point for the Mechanics Savings Bank Banking on the Future Scholarship.
Rinck ramped up promotion of the scholarship in early January for the 2008 graduating class. Rinck reached out to guidance counselors with a mailing and follow-up phone calls. Promotion of the scholarship was added to the Mechanics website. In-branch signage also promoted the scholarship and criteria.
In 2008, Mechanics received 47 entries for 13 scholarships. The quality of the entrants was so high, the CEO used discretionary funds to create a runner-up category.
Rinck then leveraged the awards to achieve a PR value that exceeded $960,000. All based on an existing investment that had never previously received PR at all.