DFA Playbook for Student Success: An Empowered19 Session

Dena Pope

EmpowerED—CampusLogic's annual student financial success technology conference—brings the SFS community together from across the country to share successes, discuss challenges, highlight results, and drive innovation. The 2019 edition, hosted in April in Tempe, Arizona, included three tracks and 20+ sessions all focused on helping you improve access to education, inform student borrowing, and drive completion by removing financial barriers across the student journey. The below session highlight is a recap of “The DFA’s Playbook for Student Success,” held as part of EmpowerED’s Director Track.

EmpowerED Session Highlight: The DFA’s Playbook for Student Success

What do football coaches and financial aid professionals have in common? They both use playbooks to drive team success. Sports coaches use playbooks to ready their teams for all kinds of scenarios that might happen during a game. Playbooks are amazing tools in the workplace too, and financial aid offices are embracing them. A FinAid playbook should include proactive outreach and intervention strategies that help your team drive consistent student experiences—and student financial success.

DFA Playbook Session Panelists

Our EmpowerED session, The DFA’s Playbook for Student Success, featured industry leaders using playbooks to their full potential. The panel included Eddy Conroy, Senior Practitioner-Researcher at the Hope Center for College Community and Justice; Kristen Gast, Director of Financial Aid at Southern Oregon University; Melissa Pizzo, Associate Vice President for Enrollment Services at Arizona State University; and our moderator, Chrisy Woll, CampusLogic’s Vice President of Customer Success. Here’s a recap:

Why Use Playbooks?

Students need FinAid offices to be proactive. That means thinking ahead and being ready to tackle not only the usual situations, but some of the anomalies and challenges that inevitably pop up along the way. Playbooks help you do that, all while empowering your staff and ensuring you never suffer from what Kristen Gast describes as ‘hit by the bus’ syndrome—having your processes brought to a standstill when the only person who knows what to do is suddenly absent.

How to Get Your Playbook Started

Before you write a word of your playbook, take an honest walk in your students’ shoes. Understand the process they go through and where they begin to have challenges. Start thinking of ways to mitigate those pain points proactively. Begin with low-hanging fruit. Start by addressing a simple pain point that won’t require too much cross-departmental collaboration.

Remember that a playbook isn’t meant to cover everything under the sun. You don’t need a playbook (or even a play) for every single situation your office will encounter. Aim to cover 80 percent. The remaining 20 percent of scenarios are likely those that are best escalated to a higher level. You can’t train everyone for everything—you’ll go crazy if you try to.

DFA Playbook for Student Success: Examples

At EmpowerED19 our panelists shared some of the following successful playbook ideas:

  • A communications playbook is built by looking at school calendars and identifying pain points. The playbook sets out a schedule of when to send out proactive, succinct communications at that just-in-time sweet spot of seven to 10 days prior to required action.
  • An unexpected expenses playbook empowers staff to help students facing unanticipated costs they can’t cover. The playbook puts everyone on the same page and creates a process to help students, fast.
  • A foster youth playbook helps staff to know what to do and enables them to help foster youth see that higher education is a viable opportunity. It outlines sensitive points and provides questions to ask.
  • A social media playbook ups your FinAid office’s communications game by setting out guidelines, brand, editorial rules, and a content calendar.

DFA Playbook: Panelists Closing Remarks

In closing, panelists reminded attendees that building playbooks takes time and energy—but that the effort is all worth it in the end. Be dedicated, tenacious, and open to feedback and questions. Playbooks are meant to be working documents that are continuously referred to by team members and adjusted for improvement!

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About the Author

Dena Pope

A 20-year veteran in the field of corporate events, Dena’s a master at creating meaningful, memorable experiences that matter. Her SaaS experience crosses verticals including real estate, cybersecurity, and higher education—to say she’s a details magician would be an understatement. Today, Dena executes seamless events nationwide, built around CampusLogic’s mission to help schools change lives. An Arizona resident, Dena and her family love the sunshine—and if you get a chance to try her baking, count yourself lucky!

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