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Case Study: Proving the value of scholarships




The Situation

Each year, thousands of scholarships are offered to Australians seeking opportunities to learn, develop and upskill, representing millions of dollars of investment in education. However, scholarship funders are increasingly looking for assurance that their financial contribution is having a true, tangible impact, both on the scholars themselves and on the world.


The Australian Scholarship Foundation (ASF) has been responsible for the development of 3,958 scholarships in the not-for-profit sector, with a total value of $10.9 million. Demonstrating the impact of these scholarships has proven to be a notoriously difficult challenge, one that scholarship providers such as the ASF have struggled with for a long time.


The ability to objectively measure and demonstrate the effectiveness of scholarships would not only help to optimise the impact of scholarships, but could also drive funding of even more opportunities for Australians to pursue personal and professional development.


The challenge

In October 2019, the Australian Scholarship Foundation (ASF) looked to Pollinate to develop a framework to measure the effectiveness of scholarships, by evaluating the prestigious Fulbright Scholarship for Not-for-Profit Leaders. The output: The Pollinate Scholarship Effectiveness Model effectively addressed the challenge regarding scholarship impact evaluation.


Our Approach

Over the years we have adopted a range of exploratory techniques to get deep engaging with grassroots clubs & groups, cross generational dinners, cultural cafes & innovative survey techniques


The Method

Stage 1

2-hour qualitative interviews with Fulbright Scholarship for NFP Leaders recipients

Stage 2

10-minute quantitative survey with Fulbright scholar peers, colleagues, direct reports and co-workers


Developing the framework

Through conducting qualitative interviews with scholars, we identified two separate yet interrelated impacts of the Fulbright Scholarships for Not-for-Profit Leaders that are crucial to evaluating scholarship outcomes:


1. Impact on the Scholar The individual developed professionally in three core ways as a result of their scholarship experience:

  • Increased access to opportunities;

  • Strengthening of leadership qualities; and

  • Attaining a unique set of knowledge

2. Impact on the industry The individual had an impact on the sector and people within it in three ways:

  • Pursuing new initiatives and bringing them to life;

  • Upskilling and influencing people around them; and

  • Bringing more funding to the sector


These hypotheses were validated in a quantitative survey among their peers in the industry in a 360-degree evaluation.


As a result, The Pollinate Scholarship Effectiveness Model measures not only the impact the scholarship has had on the scholar, it also measures the greater benefit the scholar delivers to their organisations and the sector as a whole.



Figure 1: The Pollinate Scholarship Effectiveness Model


The outcome

The Pollinate Scholarship Effectiveness Model has the potential to fundamentally impact scholarship evaluation and funding in Australia and across the world, leading to more efficient use of resources, an increase in scholarship funding, and a proliferation of opportunities across all sectors.


“It is notoriously difficult to measure and evaluate the impact of scholarships, so we regard this work as ground-breaking.”

Sean Barrett, Head of the Origin Energy Foundation

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