What GEICO Can Teach You About Giving Your Money Away

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These days it’s hard to watch TV, listen to the radio, or surf the web without encountering a little green gecko with a British accent. Yep, the GEICO gecko is everywhere. But what does he have to do with your university recruiting efforts? More than you might think!

In our last post, we talked about why scholarships are an appealing way to attract students to your company. Here’s a quick recap in case you missed it: students love to get money, it’s great for PR and your brand image, and you can engage students early in their academic careers, which means you just may outwit your sneaky competitors.

So how does this relate to that little green lizard from across the pond? GEICO is a company that recruits more than 400 entry-level positions every year and prides itself on promoting from within the company—in fact, 78% of the management team got their start in entry-level positions at GEICO.

In order to fill its entry-level positions, GEICO participates in various recruiting activities, including on-campus visits, virtual career fairs, and a range of social media promotions (you can learn more by checking out the GEICO Careers websiteFacebook page, and Twitter account). These are all outstanding examples of activities you can (and should!) be involved in, but in this post, we’re going to look specifically at scholarships, AKA “GEICO Achievement Awards.”

What is it?

GEICO offers $1,000 to eligible students through a program called “Achievement Awards.” Note that in this case, they’re not called “scholarships.” That’s because the money GEICO offers is a taxable cash award and doesn’t have to be used toward studies.

What this means for you

The rules and regulations for awarding money or prizes can vary from state to state, and often the wording you’re allowed to use is dictated by the state (for example, you might only be allowed to use the word “scholarship” if the funds will be going directly toward tuition). Get the friendly people from your legal department involved and make sure that you comply with any laws governing what to call your award and how to run it.

Who is it for?

Achievement Awards are open to sophomores and juniors who are currently enrolled full-time at an accredited college or university, possess a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or better, and are pursuing degrees in Business, Mathematics, Computer Science, or related fields.

What this means for you

When you are deciding which students will be eligible for your company’s scholarships, keep in mind that the earlier in a student’s career that you can reach him or her, the greater your chances of recruiting success further down the line. Think of it this way: If students have had positive experiences with your company as freshmen and sophomores, they’ll be much more inclined to apply for an internship or job junior or senior year.

Besides limiting the class year of students who can participate, GEICO also limits the award to specific majors that match up to the company’s entry-level hiring needs. When setting out the guidelines for your scholarships, you’ll also want to think about whether you want to limit it to specific majors.

When does it run?

GEICO’s program is offered on an annual basis and the next deadline is February 22, 2014.

What this means for you

Scholarships are a great PR tool, and they’re especially handy to refer to during your campus visits. You don’t ever want to give students the impression that they’re too young to get involved with your company, and scholarships are the perfect topic to discuss with eager freshmen and sophomores who stop by your booth or come to your info sessions.

When deciding on the timeline for your scholarship program, keep two things in mind:

1. Plan the deadline so that you can promote scholarships during your on-campus visits

2. Start with your final deadline (when you’d like to announce the decision) and then work backward to determine how long it’ll take to process and judge applications, how much time you’ll need to promote the scholarships, and how long it’ll take you to get approval and assemble a team of judges

What do students need to do to apply/be eligible?

GEICO’s program is designed to recognize students based upon their academic achievements, leadership, and involvement on campus and within the community. Students do not need to demonstrate a financial need to be considered. Children of GEICO employees are not allowed to enter (but there are other scholarship/award opportunities for students with a GEICO family connection). GEICO specifies a few dozen target schools it welcomes applications from, but students at other schools are also welcome to apply.

In order to apply, students write a 600 to 1,200-word essay that answers the question:

“What have I accomplished academically and in my work or extracurricular activities to deserve a GEICO Achievement Award?”

Students also need to provide a letter of reference from a professor or faculty member, a copy of their résumé, and a transcript.

What this means for you

You’ll want to spend some time thinking about applicant criteria and the types of materials you’ll ask applicants to provide. Asking students to submit an essay or personal statement may reduce the total number of applicants you receive, but it may also lead to higher quality applications. On the other hand, if you don’t require any sort of supplemental material, you may get more applications, but the quality of applicants may be lower. Also consider things like whether you’ll allow children of current employees to enter. If not, does your company offer some other benefit or award to employees’ children?

Requiring a letter of reference is is a great way to start a conversation with professors and faculty. You always want to build these relationships, but there’s one particular reason that we’ll discuss in the next step.

How are the scholarships promoted and awarded?

GEICO promotes their awards through their website, on-campus events, and social media. The really fun part is how the awards are given to recipients. Just check out this YouTube video, “GEICO Gecko Visiting My Econ Class.” Take a minute to watch a snippet of the video and you can observe a few things:

  • The GEICO gecko and a few other company reps come to interrupt an econ class and deliver a GIANT check to a recipient
  • Students seem a little bewildered, but also interested in what’s going on
  • This video was posted by a student (not the recipient of the award and not GEICO’s PR team)

What this means for you

Giving away money is fun—don’t forget that! Treat the award ceremony as a party and try to get other students involved. Even if your company doesn’t have a fun mascot, can you find another way to show your excitement and company culture in this setting?

If you do have contact information for the sponsoring professor or faculty member, see if you can arrange to present the award during class or a club meeting. This is sure to leave an impression on other students. Who knows? You might get lucky and inspire a student to upload a video to YouTube and help promote YOUR company.

Putting it all together

We’ve taken you through many of the major issues you’ll need to consider when setting up a scholarship program: who will be eligible, when the promotion will take place and deadline will be, what the actual award will be, and how you’ll present it.

These are probably not questions that you’ll want to answer on your own. Be sure to get input from legal, marketing, HR, and any other departments you think should be involved. Keep in mind that scholarships are an excellent way of building your brand and setting up your talent pipeline, so make sure to think about which majors or types of students you’ll want to hire a few years down the road.

The next step: Put together an outline of the most important aspects of your scholarship or award program. Be sure to answer the W questions covered in this post (who, what, when, where, and how).

P.S. Still confused? We can help! AfterCollege offers a range of services to help you promote and administer your scholarships. For more info, visit our Employer Scholarships info page.

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