Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Scholarship Office's Trip to Kansas City

Ahead of the Curve
by Ashley Brown

Each year, the Elks National Foundation scholarship staff attends the National Scholarship Providers Association annual conference. The NSPA is a national network of foundations, corporations, and higher education institutions who support and encourage college success for all students through the power of scholarships.

For the last three years, I’ve had the privilege of attending and learning from peer organizations on the best practices in scholarship program management. Besides being inspired by the great work of organizations who are making college possible for many students, I have continually been reminded of the great work the Elks and the Elks National Foundation are doing for students nationwide.

As my colleagues Jenna and Maryann will detail, the ENF is at the forefront of excellent scholarship programming and scholar relations efforts. From Elks Scholar Service Trips and Campus Meet-Ups, to our Scholar Advisory Board, we are connecting scholars to one another and the Elks and showing them the real meaning of Elks family. In addition, our responsive scholarship programming and dedicated volunteers ensure we are reaching the highest achieving students with the most need and helping them obtain their dreams of a college education. Every day and every year, ENF staff and Elks volunteers are making college possible for thousands of students nationwide and introducing them into a network of like-minded and charitable individuals.


63% of Elks scholars receive on average one to four other private scholarships, so engaging Elks scholars with their Elks family is an important and achievable goal. Read on to hear from Maryann and Jenna on how the Elks National Foundation is ahead of the curve on scholar relations programming and how we shared our knowledge with similar organizations.


The Gold Standard
By Maryann Slater

This year, the ENF got to present on how we provide “More Than Just a Check” to our Elks scholars through our scholar relations efforts. From encouraging scholars to meet-up on their campuses, to social media campaigns, to our Elks Scholar Service Trips, we offer scholars many opportunities to get involved with their Elks family across the country.

As an Elks scholar alum, I had the opportunity to take advantage of these opportunities in college and am extremely thankful for the opportunities that have been afforded to me by the Foundation.

I never realized, until attending NSPA last year for the first time, how unique the ENF’s scholar opportunities are when compared to other scholarship providers. The community provided by the National Scholarship Providers Association is one of a kind, as we learn from other providers’ best practices, and share about our programs with providers from across the country.

As I was preparing our presentation for the conference, I realized that as a scholar alum and ENF staff member, I had the opportunity to share my story of how the Foundation has touched my life and how I have seen scholars’ connections with their Elks family touch theirs and impact their college experience in a positive way.

When your story becomes your work, it’s a pretty special opportunity to do what you love and share that with others. When an attendee of our session called us the “gold standard” in what we do, we couldn’t have been happier and enjoyed reflecting upon how much we’ve grown in the past few years thanks to ENF donors’ and Elks’ support.



Connecting with the Elks Family
By Jenna Johnson

Regardless of where we are, we love the opportunity to connect with our Elks family! After our second day of conference sessions we met up with Elks scholar Hussain Rao, who attends the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Hussain received a Most Valuable Student scholarship in 2015 and is enrolled in a six year fast-track medical program. We loved getting to know him and hear how he first learned about the MVS scholarship and what he has been doing as an Elks scholar ever since.

We are constantly impressed not only by the accomplishments of our scholars, but by their character. We know they’re doing incredible work in the classroom and in their communities, but meeting up in person is such a rewarding opportunity.

The Elks National Foundation is passionate about our scholarships being more than just a check. We want our scholars, current and alumni, to understand that we consider them to be family. Therefore, we are intentional about building community wherever we go. Three times a year we offer service trips taking place in locations across the U.S. for our scholars to come together and serve in the name of the Elks. From selecting eight Elks scholars to serve on an advisory board to the Foundation, to hiring two Elks scholar alumni to work full-time in our office, the Foundation is proactive about scholar engagement, and meeting up with scholars while traveling is just one example of our commitment to building stronger community. 

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Meet-Up in Madtown


by Sherie Sasso Scholarship Chair at Madison, Wis., Lodge No 410

This is my fourth year as Scholarship Chair at Madison, Wis., Lodge No. 410. We have about 25 high schools in our area, and we generally receive 40 to 50 applications each year. We have a team of three or four individuals who judge the applications.


From the beginning, I have always been extremely impressed by the quality of the applicants. They are all very bright scholars who maintain excellent grades while also participating in community service and school activities. Most are leaders in their classrooms and on their sports teams. In addition, many hold part-time jobs. It is incredibly difficult to evaluate each application and determine which of the applicants will move on to the District level. We wish we could give scholarships to all of the students because they have all worked so hard.

I was very happy when Elks Scholar Fellow Jenna Johnson contacted me about hosting an Elks Scholar Meet-Up at our Lodge. I was surprised to learn that 26 Elks scholars currently attend the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Twelve of them were able to attend our scholar meet-up. Except for a couple of casual contacts, none of the students had met each other, and the thing that brought them together was their Elks scholarship.

By the end of dinner, they were all chatting and laughing among themselves— exchanging emails and phone numbers, and really enjoying their get together. It
occurred to me that they actually have more in common than their Elks scholarship. They are all very similar people: extremely bright, extremely motivated and instilled with a natural love of learning. I’m so glad we were able to bring them together at the Lodge and I hope we stay in touch with each other.

Meeting these exceptional students has strengthened my belief in the ENF scholarship program and I am excited to review this year’s applications. Thank you, ENF!

Thursday, October 20, 2016

#Wybroming

by Youth Programs Associate Billy Donnelly 
I have been fortunate enough to experience many different not-for-profit organizations, both as a volunteer and as a staff member. In my opinion, nonprofit work is the most rewarding thing that I can do both personally and professionally. Working a hard day and then working a hard day’s night can leave you feeling like a dog, but when you are invested, and you care about what you are working for, it’s different.
I am not going to pretend that doing nonprofit work magically makes everything okay. After a long day your feet are still going to hurt, your back is still going to ache, you’re still going to be hungry and tired, but it’s different. It’s worth it. And you know that it’s worth it. There are plenty of idioms that can sum up this sensation such as “You get out of it what you put into it” or “You reap what you sow”, and each one is more true than the last. Don’t believe me? Let me explain what it is like in Casper, #Wybroming.
With my #Wybroming travel companion

Elks family is more than just a hashtag. It is what connects hundreds of thousands of people across the country to each other. I am confident that I could enter an Elks Lodge anywhere I go and be welcomed as a friend. Within the Elks family, there is a Hoop Shoot family as well, and Casper, Wya., Lodge No. 1353 has always been an important part of that family. Long-time Hoop Shoot National Finals volunteers Ron and Nancy Shogren are members of the Casper Lodge. Long-time Wyoming State Director Frank Luers is a member of Casper Lodge, as well as Beth Luers, long-time District Director. Wes Stull, the long-time Lodge Director for Casper, credits the Hoop Shoot as the reason that he joined the Elks. Also in attendance at this event, was Region 8 Director Randy Gragg and his lovely wife Liz. This meant that every level of the Hoop Shoot, from Lodge to National, was represented.

I first met Wes and his wife JoAnn at my first National Finals—the 2016 Hoop Shoot National Finals in Chicago. There was not a single Finalist from Wyoming, but that did not stop Casper’s whole Hoop Shoot family—Ron, Nancy, Frank, Beth, Wes and JoAnn—from attending. 


Because Lodge No. 1353 has such a great relationship with the Hoop Shoot, we were invited to attend an Elks National Foundation Fundraiser at the Lodge, kicking off ENF month. The scheduling worked in our favor, and before I knew it, Elks National Foundation Director Jim O’Kelley and I were on the plane to Casper, tweeting about #Wybroming all the while. I wish I could talk about the wonderful hospitality that we received—about how the pilot welcomed the ENF staff over the intercom upon landing, about the welcome gala waiting for us at the airport, about two days of never having an empty glass or plate, and about the private tours of both the Lodge and the City of Casper, both well-deserved points of pride. But that is not what I took away from this trip. That’s not to say that I did not enjoy all the hospitality, because I most certainly did, but I took from the weekend than souvenirs and a full stomach.

Casper is one of the best Lodges I’ve ever been to, and it’s easy to see why. Lodge members work hard to make it that way. Casper has a plethora of committed volunteers that put a lot of time and effort into the Lodge, making it a fun place to be for both members of the Lodge and members of the community. Wes Stull, who helped organize our trip, was responsible for cooking 126 racks of ribs in one day. Something that wouldn’t have been possible without the help of friends and volunteers like Dan Winer, Tom Hedges and Exalted Ruler Michael Stedillie who spent their entire weekend volunteering at the Lodge. They were up with the sun and worked well into the night. The thing about it, though, is that they had fun while doing it. They enjoyed it. Every person at the Lodge on Saturday and Sunday had a great time, myself included. There was laughter and conversation among friends. But the Casper Lodge volunteers seemed to be having even more fun working than the people they were working for. Wes and the other volunteers were cracking jokes while proudly showing the fruits of their labor. It seems only fitting that they put in the most, and thus, they were able to get the most out of it. It was a wonderful sight to see, and it all tasted good too.


This mentality and work ethic, that is found in spades around the Casper Lodge, is what I took with me back to Chicago. It inspired me to put forth the extra effort, go the extra mile, not just professionally, but personally, as a member of my Lodge as well. I can’t thank the members of the Casper Lodge enough for the weekend spent in #Wybroming. Not just for the hospitality, but for the inspiration and the reminder of what can be accomplished if you are willing to put in the work.


Wednesday, October 19, 2016

My Journey from Elk scholar to Lodge Scholarship Chair

 Sean Pringle is the Scholarship Chair at the Oceano/Five Cities, Calif., Lodge No. 2504 where he has been a member for two years. Upon receiving his MVS scholarship in 2010, Sean served on the ENF Scholar Advisory Board (SAB) for four years. He graduated in spring of 2016 with a Bachelor’s and a Master’s degree in Civil Engineering (structural emphasis) from Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo.  

We encourage Elks scholars to share their story, give their time, and join the Order. Hear about Sean’s journey from share, to give, to join below.

SHARE

Each scholar has a different story and experience to share. We come from all different backgrounds, have led different volunteer events/activities, and are passionate about pursuing a great career after college. When you consider how many current Elks scholars and alumni are out there, we make up a rather large community, all with one central connection­we’re part of the much larger Elks family.
 

I became involved with the Elks during my senior year of high school. I realized how much the Elks were doing for our school, from providing dinners for students with academic excellence, to hosting the Elks Teenager of the Month (and Year) awards. I volunteered at a few dinners and lunch events earlier that year, and was selected as an MVS recipient later that spring. That summer, I served my first year as a Scholar Advisory Board member, which opened my eyes even more to opportunities the Elks provide across the country. Naturally, when I joined the Elks, I was drawn towards helping with the scholarships. We also have a great Youth Activities Chair, Kristi Dupler, who’s been a great mentor.

GIVE
Back in college, I took a few other Elks scholars from my campus to various Lodge events to keep them connected with the Elks. We also did community activities, like visiting local senior homes to play cards and hang out with senior citizens. I knew it was a way to give back to the Order, which was supporting us during college with ENF and Lodge scholarships. We even made t-shirts that said “Cal Poly Elks Scholars” which we wore when we volunteered at these activities.

I think the most important thing Elks can do after supporting an Elks scholar going off to college is to continue to remain involved with that scholar during their college years. One great program is the Elks Scholar Speaker Program, which invites Elks scholars back to their Lodges during academic breaks to speak to the Lodge over a dinner and share their experiences. It helps the scholars to continue to remember the Order and reinforces a desire to give back and share their story even after they graduate from college.

JOIN
My number one piece of advice for younger scholars looking to join the Elks is to think about joining with a friend. That way, there’s at least one person you know when you attend an event and it might make “breaking the ice” and meeting new people a bit easier. Also, getting involved in a specific committee, such as scholarships, or veterans, can help to keep you involved in several Lodge activities throughout the year.


The B.P.O.E. is truly a family filled with amazing and giving individuals. I don’t think any other organization presents the same amount of support through volunteer efforts geared towards a large variety of groups - from youth to veterans, law enforcement and even just the general public. Lodges provide an opportunity to meet someone new each day and share stories and experiences with one another. I look forward to contributing towards the warm culture at my home Lodge in the work I perform as Scholarship Chair and through our annual events. The term “Benevolence”, synonymous with “kindness”, “charity” and “goodwill” is 100 percent at the core of the organization and every activity put on by the more than 1,900 Lodges across the country. 

Monday, October 10, 2016

Don’t Forget about the CIP!

by Senior Programs Associate Colleen Muszynski


2017 Most Valuable Student and Legacy Awards contests are in full swing. The Dallas Elks Scholar Service Trip is approaching this winter. The Hoop Shoot season has kicked-off with Lodge contests ramping up in October and griteos dropping every Tuesday

But hey, what’s that? In the corner among the chaos? It’s your friendly Community Investments Program grant office! And we’re here, as ever, to help Lodges make a charitable impact in their communities. 

Chelsea and I with our CIP Field Guides
Maybe I’m biased because I help run the CIP, but I’d argue that even during our slower times, the CIP grants office still buzzes with excitement. It’s a constant buzz that started with the kick-off of the 2016-17 grant year July 1, and won’t end until the cycle closes July 31, 2017—at which time we’ll ALREADY be a month into the 2017-18 year!

I’m getting ahead of myself because although we are always looking forward, there are some things to celebrate in our recent past. Already, we’ve debuted our brand-new CIP Field Guide, awarded all 500 Promise Grants in record time, and had 484 Lodges apply for the Freedom Grant—the most ever. 

Looking forward, I’m excited about a couple of things this ENF month. The CIP office and colleagues from other ENF departments are diligently reviewing 2017 Impact Grant applications. Recipients will be announced on spooky Monday, October 31. Speaking of Impact Grants, I’ll be visiting the Elmhurst, Ill., Lodge No. 1531—a 2016 Impact Grant recipient right in the ENF’s backyard. 

In addition, I’m really excited to introduce our new blog series written by 2016 CIP Volunteer of the Year and Fresno, Calif., Lodge No. 439’s very own, Susan Good. Susan will be writing periodically to offer tips and insights into what it means to be a successful grants coordinator. Click here to check out the first installment on Elks in Action

Even with the constant hum of excitement in the CIP office, we’re never too busy to talk. Feeling inspired to join in on the grant fun? Give us a call or shoot us an email! 

The Elks National Foundation allocated $9.8 million this year to fund the Community Investments Program. Lodges meet local needs through Beacon, Gratitude, Promise and Impact Grants. These grants offer Lodges opportunities to serve the community in ways that will raise the Lodge’s profile, energize the membership, encourage former members to return to the fold, and gain the notice of people who want to be part of an organization that’s doing great things. To learn more about the Community Investments Program, please visit elks.org/CIP.