With “NASFAA Gives Back” Program, Group Reinvests in its Members
Members of the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators helped the group weather the challenges of the pandemic. Now, as many of its member institutions face funding cuts, NASFAA created a program to support them.
Over the course of 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 struggle with post-pandemic issues like lack of funding for staff professional development, the group—which is financially healthy due, in part, to the membership surge—launched the NASFAA Gives Back program to support members.
“Coming out of the pandemic, a lot of our members, which are colleges and universities, are floundering, finding themselves in a much more difficult position,” said Justin Draeger, president and CEO of NASFAA. “We looked at our relative position and how we could provide a bridge for our members. The easiest, most direct way was to come up with a campaign that would put more dollars in their pockets to participate in professional development and training and give them some safety nets in terms of how much things would cost in the future.”
Under NASFAA Gives Back, each member institution is eligible for a $600 learning credit that can be used for NASFAA professional development, and member dues will not increase for the next two years. In addition, NASFAA is offering other benefits as part of the program, including creating a scholarship to support under-resourced institutions and rethinking their conference with community investment and affordable registration fees in mind.
The amount of professional development help was intentionally substantial. “It’s pretty significant,” Draeger said. “That’ll get them access to online courses, credentials, and certifications. It can give them access to executive-level coaching. It also covers registrations at our live site events. It can’t be applied to membership, but other than that, it can be used for anything else that we’re offering across the organization.”
Between the big credit on professional development and commitment to not increasing membership dues for two years, some may be wondering if this could hurt NASFAA financially. Draeger said the group has run the numbers and is well-positioned to do this.
“We made sure all of our strategic priorities were funded, and all of our reserves were funded,” Draeger said.
NASFAA wanted to avoid what Draeger calls a “longstanding tradition in associations” of over-funding reserves.
“There is a tendency to always build reserves larger and larger,” he said. “But unless there’s a specific strategic designation or use for those funds, the way we looked at it was, we could fund all of our strategic initiatives and still have money left over. That analysis led us to say, ‘Let’s just give the money back to schools who are struggling to come up with the budgets to provide professional development.’”
Plan is Mission-Driven
So far, member reaction has been overwhelmingly positive. They’re very excited to spend the professional development funds, which must be used within 12 months. Some organizations are even being altruistic: NASFAA offers members the option to donate their credit to less fortunate schools, and Draeger said some have chosen this.
Draeger said the program is good for NASFAA’s mission—and being true to mission has historically brought in the best results for the organization.
“During the pandemic, we decided that we were going to offer all of the COVID-19 federal guidance free of charge, so even to schools that weren’t NASFAA members,” he said. “What we found by doing that was by focusing on our mission and the public good, we ended up picking up members. We suspect that this excitement from this initiative will do the same thing. It’ll result in higher retention levels and probably even more members.”
Ultimately, NASFAA was in the position to launch this giveback campaign due to the overall health of the organization. For other groups considering ways they can give back to members, Draeger had some advice.
“I can’t say this is the exact right model for every association,” he said. “What I would say is it’s important upfront to have a good idea of what your strategic initiatives are now and in the future. Once you have your arms around that, the rest becomes really easy in terms of determining how much you can just give right back to your members as a benefit.”
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