The Bridging Dream Scholarship Program at Sallie Mae is at the core of its mission—to help the next generation of leaders build prosperous futures.
Launched in 2016, it recognizes students who excel in academics, athletics, community service, or school activities, but whose financial circumstances may not allow them to pursue their college dreams.
The program also provides a meaningful way for Sallie Mae’s 2,000 employees to get involved at the ground level and contribute to the mission by raising funds for the scholarship program.
Hundreds of employees participated in various events, including Sallie Mae 5K races across the country, office Ping-Pong tournaments, bake sales and raffles. Employees also wrote letters to their alma maters, their children’s schools, and local community leaders to spread the word. Members of the company’s business development team made sure school counselors and community leaders had the application information.
The large role employees play in fundraising has resulted in raising nearly $200,000 since the program’s launch. Not only did employees help raise funds for the scholarships, they were part of a surprise reveal.
In 2019, announcements of the Bridging the Dream Scholarship high school program winners were split into six virtual reveals and two in-person reveals. The students’ nominators were in on the secret and helped Sallie Mae surprise the students via Skype. The students’ reactions were all captured on camera and those images and video were then shared with Sallie Mae employees and the media.
Also, in 2019 Sallie Mae revealed the Bridging the Dream Scholarship for graduate students at the Association of National Advertisers’ (ANA) Brand Activation Marketing Conference in Orlando, Florida, while its chief marketing officer, Donna Vieira, was presenting on Sallie Mae’s new brand. The four winners were surprised with a $80,000 check.
In addition to promoting these scholarships through the media and social media, Sallie Mae’s sales team got in touch with their high school and college contacts, through email and in-person meetings, and drove the prospective nominators to the programs’ dedicated webpages.
Scholarship promotion for the Bridging the Dream Scholarship Program resulted in nearly 2 billion media impressions. This included online, print or broadcast coverage in every market it had a scholarship recipient. It had nearly 160,000 visits to its landing pages. Additionally, social media owned and earned posts reached more than 4.5 million people, resulting in 7 million impressions, and more than 40,000 engagements.