During the pandemic, the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators provided so many valuable services and benefits that not only was its renewal rate high, but new members joined in droves. Now, as its members grapple with post-pandemic issues like lack of funding for staff professional development, the group – which is financially healthy thanks, in part, to increased membership – has launched the NASFAA gives back member support program.
“Coming out of the pandemic, many of our members, who are colleges and universities, are floundering and finding themselves in a much more difficult position,” said Justin Draeger, NASFAA President and CEO. “We looked at our relative position and how we could provide a bridge for our members. The easiest and most direct way was to come up with a campaign that would put more money in their pockets to participate in professional development and training and give them cost safety nets in the future.
As part of NASFAA Gives Back, each member institution is eligible for a $600 learning credit that can be used for NASFAA professional development, and membership dues will not increase for the next two years. In addition, NASFAA offers other benefits under the program, including the establishment of a scholarship to support underfunded institutions and redesign their conference with community investment in mind and a registration fee. affordable.
The amount of professional development assistance was intentionally substantial. “It’s pretty significant,” Draeger said. “It will give them access to online courses, credentials and certifications. This can give them access to executive-level coaching. It also covers registrations for our live events on the site. It cannot be applied to membership, but other than that it can be used for anything we offer across the organization.
Between the great merit of professional development and the commitment not to increase membership dues for two years, some may wonder if this could hurt NASFAA financially. Draeger said the group had worked out the numbers and were in a good position to do so.
“We made sure that all of our strategic priorities were funded and that all of our reserves were funded,” Draeger said.
NASFAA wanted to avoid what Draeger calls a “longstanding association tradition” of overfunding reserves.
“There is a tendency to always build bigger and bigger reserves,” he said. “But unless there was a specific designation or strategic use for these funds, the way we envisioned it was that we could fund all of our strategic initiatives and we still had money left. . This analysis led us to say: “Let’s just give the money back to the schools that are struggling to find the budgets necessary to ensure professional development”.
The plan is mission-driven
So far, the response from members has been overwhelmingly positive. They are very enthusiastic about spending the professional development funds, which must be used within 12 months. Some organizations are even altruistic: NASFAA offers its members the option to donate their credit to less fortunate schools, and Draeger said some have chosen to do so.
Draeger said the program is good for NASFAA’s mission — and being true to the mission has historically brought the best results for the organization.
“During the pandemic, we decided that we were going to offer all federal COVID-19 guidelines for free, so even to schools that were not NASFAA members,” he said. “What we discovered by doing this is that by focusing on our mission and the public good, we ended up recruiting members. We suspect that this enthusiasm generated by this initiative will do the same. This will result in higher retention levels and probably even more members.
Ultimately, NASFAA was able to launch this donation campaign due to the overall health of the organization. For other groups considering ways to give back to members, Draeger has some advice.
“I can’t say this is exactly the right model for every association,” he said. “What I would say is that it’s important from the start to have a good idea of what your current and future strategic initiatives are. Once you have your arms around that, the rest becomes really easy in terms of figuring out how much you can just give back to your members as a benefit.
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