We recently connected with Brock Ostrander and have shared our conversation below.
Brock, appreciate you joining us today. Let’s kick things off with your mission – what is it and what’s the story behind why it’s your mission?
The mission of the Ostrander Scholar Society is to provide funding for higher education. Scholarship applicants are those who prove themselves via involvement in leadership and community service. The idea took root in 1997 after a national level leader passed away following an auto collision. Our founder created a memorial scholarship in his memory/honor and the program started to grow. Years later, we became a non profit organization and launched a second scholarship program. Both programs are merit based. Rather than base selections solely on grades, grade point averages and ACT/SAT scores, we felt it was time to honor those who may struggle in school yet still do awesome things that benefit something greater than themselves. Students who struggle with grades and tests are often overlooked for opportunities and we feel this isn’t a good precedent. There are thousands of students with learning disabilities, test anxiety and such who still volunteer and give back, sometimes more so than those who don’t struggle. These young men and women deserve a shot to better themselves too. Growing up, I would apply for various scholarships and was often overlooked because I didn’t have a high ACT score or because my GPA wasn’t a perfect 4.0. Standardized test scores and grade point averages are not necessarily an indicator of future success. While some of our scholarship recipients do have exemplary grades, it’s not a prerequisite for consideration. We feel strongly it’s time to put the spotlight on those who step up and give back in a myriad of ways. These are the unsung heroes of our country and we strive to give them a boost. Our nation needs more well rounded individuals and we seek to help them on their path to success.
Awesome – so before we get into the rest of our questions, can you briefly introduce yourself to our readers.
It was my involvement in Scouting that eventually led me to create our non profit, the Ostrander Scholar Society. After becoming an Eagle Scout, I remained active in Order of the Arrow, Scouting’s National Honor Society. I became an officer of my local chapter and worked my way up to lodge and sectional levels. It was during this time, I became acquainted with the National Vice Chief, Josh Sain. I looked up to him and his example and became inspired to pursue more leadership opportunities with the organization. Sadly, about 6 months later, Josh was killed in a tragic auto collision. Our family decided to create a memorial scholarship to honor his legacy. Over time, the program grew and we eventually became a 501(c)(3) non profit organization. Right now, we have two scholarship programs. The original honors Eagle Scouts who are active in Order of the Arrow. The other is in memory of my mother and honors men and women who reach certain levels of volunteerism in their community. It’s our hope to launch a 3rd scholarship and a college internship program in the near future. These are contingent on securing funding. Still in its conceptual stage, the 3rd scholarship would be for individuals who desire a career in animal services such as veterinarian, vet tech, zoologist, animal shelter management, etc. The internship program would be for college students who want experience in marketing, fundraising, public relations, etc. Successful interns would receive a stipend and possible college credits from their college/university. What separates us from other scholarship programs is that ours are merit based. We look at each applicant and what they’ve done in the community as well as how they’ve served in leadership capacities. Our non profit is purely volunteer driven and 100% of donations go directly to the scholarship fund. Our expenses are few and our Board of Directors pay for such expenses so donations remain intact for scholarships. This year we celebrate 25 years of supporting higher education for our nation’s leaders! We’ve given out 60 to 70 scholarships and hope to increase these numbers in the coming years. Something else that makes us unique is we don’t require applicants to seek specific degrees or attend specific institutions. We simply require the college/university to be fully accredited. Students working on an associates, bachelor or masters degree can apply, provided they meet all other requirements, which can be found on our website.
Any thoughts, advice, or strategies you can share for fostering brand loyalty?
We keep in regular contact with our donors via website, Facebook and email updates. We show them the impact of their donations and why it’s paramount they continue supporting our programs. Most donors continue to give annually. Some of our donors tell our story to friends and this “word of mouth” approach helps us acquire new and potential donors. We do some campaigning of our own to entice future donors. We use letters of appeal to explain our story. Some efforts are done via social media and radio.
How do you keep your team’s morale high?
We have found that consistent communication and appreciation/recognition goes far with boosting and maintaining morale. Donors are thanked quickly and the directors/volunteers are acknowledged frequently for their efforts to the cause. Writing a handwritten thank you note seems to be a lost art these days but we’ve found going the extra mile puts a smile on a face and the person feels genuine appreciation. Communicating with the team on a consistent basis makes everyone feel like they’re included and they’re shown in real time how their contributions of time, talent and treasure make a difference.