Secret Sauce

This post originally appeared on the Johnson Scholarship Foundation website and was featured during JSF’s joint presentation with Pearson Inc. at the 2018 AHEAD Conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico. 

The picture above features Eric Fisher, a Johnson Scholar who came to our dinner and spoke to the Grant Program Committee. His appearance and remarks resonated with a lesson that we have learned. The greater value of our scholarships is not in the money but in the “secret sauce” that goes with them.

That is not to downplay the importance of money. Without it we have no mission and no scholarships. Money is assuredly the main course. But it is the “secret sauce” that enables students to sit down and stay for dinner.  And it is the “secret sauce” that students remember long afterward.

By “secret sauce” we mean non-monetary support, which we wrap around the scholarship. This support includes mentoring that prepares a disadvantaged student for post-secondary education. It includes academic support and tutoring. It includes follow up and counselling after the student has made the transition to college. Most important, it includes the act of faith implicit in the granting of a Johnson scholarship.

The Foundation’s show of faith helps our students through difficult moments when they think that they cannot succeed. It lights their way forward when they feel like quitting. Hope and faith instilled by the Foundation’s scholarship was the theme of Eric’s remarks and he repeatedly stressed that this helped him much more than the money.

_img-SUS-logo-sm“Secret sauce” also helps the institutions, which serve our scholarship recipients. For example our State University System of Florida scholarships are managed by the Disability Service Offices on each of the 12 campuses. These offices run the committees, take the applications and award the scholarships. Their ownership of this process, and the implicit show of faith in them, enhances the status of the Disability Service Offices in the eyes of the people who work there, other offices on campus and, most important, the eyes of the students they serve.

We have a limited supply of money and we do a good job of getting leverage. Continuing with the SUSF example, it attracts a 50 percent match from the Florida Legislature and we offer a supplement, which each campus must fully match. Most of our scholarship programs have a matching component.

We also leverage our “secret sauce” by attending events and meeting with students and faculty, by regularly convening meetings of our grantees, by writing to students and by raising the Foundation’s profile and building its brand. We can do a better job and we continue to explore ways of doing so, within the bounds of thrift.

The largest potential for leverage comes from our communication initiative, particularly social media. As the Foundation becomes better known its brand will grow and so will the value of its “secret sauce.”

Malcolm Macleod is the President and CEO of the Johnson Scholarship Foundation. Since joining the Foundation as President in 2001, he has spent the past 15 years working with the Board, staff and grantees to ensure that JSF is a Foundation that makes quality grants serving as catalysts for effective change. Prior to his work with the Foundation, Malcolm had a 26 year career in law and is currently a member of the Bar.

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