News Column

Hispanic Scholarship Fund: 'Speaking the Language of Business'

May 6, 2008

Steven Van Yoder--HispanicBusiness

Students graduating--thanks to scholarships

By awarding a whopping 82,000 college scholarships worth more than $221 million, the Hispanic Scholarship Fund may be breaking all records for nonprofit success. Founded in 1975 to boost college education among U.S. Hispanics, the fund has changed the lives of tens of thousands of Hispanic students from all 50 states, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. As the nation's preeminent organization supporting Hispanic higher education, and one of Hispanic Business magazine's Top 25 nonprofits, the fund reportedly is a model of efficiency and results.

"We run our organization like a business," says Frank Alvarez, who has been HSF's president and CEO since November 2007. "We borrow best practices liberally from corporate America, which enables us to grow and scale our operations while remaining intensely focused on our mission."

A key focus for the organization has been to embrace technology. It recently moved its entire scholarship application process online. "In the past, everyone submitted reams of paper, which then had to be manually inputted," says Mr. Alvarez. "By taking advantage of online technology, we've saved hours of work time. We've processed 250 percent more applications than we did last year."

The HSF model also calls for stringent accounting practices. "We hold monthly meetings to track our goals and make adjustments as needed," says Mr. Alvarez.

"Our goals are aggressive, and we are independently audited every six months." Such practices are considered carefully by foundations and other donors.

An Online Presence

"We also regularly demonstrate good financial stewardship to funders and stakeholders through our fundraising and stakeholder engagement programs," adds Mr. Alvarez. These include yearly award ceremonies showcasing the scholarship winners. "We've also established an online presence through popular Web sites, including YouTube, Facebook, and MySpace, to promote our programs and reinforce our track record."

HSF's executive team was carefully chosen for their diverse experience in the corporate, education, and nonprofit sectors, another critical focus of donors and foundations. "We are very deliberate about implementing a corporate management style, which includes recruiting talent from America's most well-run companies," says Mr. Alvarez, who worked in the private sector for more than 30 years. He describes the fund's board as "a diverse group of high-level, influential executives, who have strong ties to the

Hispanic community." A remarkable 97 percent of the students who received HSF scholarships have earned bachelor's degrees, and 43 percent have either gained or are seeking graduate degrees. Th is success has helped the fund build long-term trust from corporate partners and foundations. In 2007, nearly 67 percent of HSF's total funding came from such partners, including the Lilly Endowment and Lumina Foundation. Th is a critical point because the lack of foundation funding continues to haunt most Hispanic nonprofits -- nearly 97 percent do not receive any foundation funding.

"The Language Of Business"

Mr. Alvarez advises Hispanic nonprofits to "speak the language of business." He adds, "There is plenty of funding available to nonprofits that see their role as more than embracing a 'good cause.' Foundations and corporate donors seek nonprofits with good business practices, a strong, accountable management team, the ability to express and quantify their organizational ROI, and an openness to collaborate with a full range of partners and stakeholders."

For more stories covering the world of technology, please see HispanicBusiness' Tech Channel

Source: (c) 2008. All rights reserved.

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