Based in Chicago, the George M. Pullman Educational Foundation helps outstanding graduating seniors with merit-based, need-based scholarships and educational support to pursue a bachelor’s degree at the college or university of their choice. The foundation has supported its scholars with more than $33 million in scholarships since 1950.
Challenges were mounting for the foundation. Among them, escalating tuition costs that began to erode the impact of scholarship awards and the need for greater awareness and better technologies. Funding was clearly the organization’s number-one challenge. Because it is a private foundation, there are reduced financial benefits to donors. The Pullman Foundation believed that if donors were able to receive added tax benefits beyond the 30-percent limitation, this would drive fundraising growth, expand its reach and move its board and its vision forward for continued long-term success.
Wipfli guided the foundation through the complex process of changing its status from a private foundation to private operating foundation, thus allowing public charity levels of deductibility for donors.
Wipfli then convened key foundation staff along with the board of directors to conduct strategic planning sessions. Through in-depth interviews, the firm helped the organization discover opportunities and explore its full potential. Among the improvements Wipfli helped the foundation identify were the needs to:
- Continue growth of outreach to alumni and the community and increase the applicant pool.
- Grow its fundraising initiatives through its alumni base, community and corporate fundraising and special events.
- Expand services to scholars, applicants and their families by introducing additional online resources and establishing more connected communities.
- Pursue board diversity and consider establishing a board succession plan.
- Promote the foundation’s image through nontraditional marketing avenues.
By developing a finite number of key priorities, the Pullman Foundation is now better positioned for growth and for helping as many students as possible pursue higher education. The organization has created a clear direction for goals and strategies and is moving the foundation forward by growing its board while channeling member passion for greater returns.