Every year the Johnson Scholarship Foundation hosts two annual convening of select grantees. The first is in June and welcomes representatives from the Disability Resource Centers in the twelve state of Florida universities. The second one, held in October, is for representatives from the colleges and universities providing Foundation business and entrepreneurship scholarships to Indigenous students. In both cases, the Foundation pays all expenses (travel, lodging, food) for two representatives per school to attend these day-long meetings. The Foundation provides the meeting space, plans the agenda for the day, often brings in expert speakers, facilitates the meetings and, in the case of the October meetings, hosts an after meeting dinner. A minimum of five Foundation staff, consultants, and Directors attend each of these meetings. So why would any foundation go to such trouble and expense to host these annual meetings? The answer is simple: They make a difference.
First and foremost, they make a difference for the grantee representatives, many of whom tell us their meeting is the one time a year that they are able to actually meet and talk with others at different schools doing the same work they do. Our post-meeting surveys are full of responses like:
- This meeting always gives great information about scholarships, challenges & successes of other campuses.
- Great feedback from other campuses to be considered on our campus
- It is great to not only hear what others are doing, but to be able to network with them and see what they have experienced and hear their problems and successes.
- Always great to share ideas with others in the same field
- I always take ideas back to our campus
- I enjoyed the comparisons/contrasts between my office and others
When we ask what they wished they had had more time for during the meeting, the
overwhelming response is the desire to spend more time talking with each other. “I learned so much through the various conversations and sharing opportunities,” reported an attendee from Florida Polytechnic University. “It often turns into the most valuable part of these events,” added a representative from New College of Florida. “So many people had so many great thoughts/ideas!” raved another June meeting attendee.
So what does the Foundation get out of these meetings? A lot, as proved by the fact that we keep providing these opportunities and our own people keep wanting to be involved.
Listening to our grantees share their experiences gives us a far greater appreciation of the work they are doing. As our President, Malcolm Macleod, often expresses, the Foundation is making the investment, but these people are the ones doing the work.
Meeting people face to face creates stronger personal bonds and makes dealing with issues and concerns over the phone the rest of the year much more comfortable for both parties.
Listening to and talking with the grantees make the grants “real” for our Directors. Reading a program summary can never compare to actually knowing the effects of a program that the Directors voted to fund.