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How PGSF, EDSF Rise to the Business Challenges of Fostering Print Industry Scholarships


By Patrick Henry
Published: November 8, 2007

Necessary, ennobling, uplifting, visionary, laudable, and supremely worthy of emulation—raising money for print industry scholarships surely is all of that. But anyone engaged in funding, administering, and disbursing scholarships is also operating a business with financial goals to meet, investors to please, and customers to satisfy. In the printing industry, the two most successful organizational practitioners of this special enterprise are the Print and Graphics Scholarship Foundation (PGSF) and the Electronic Document Systems Foundation (EDSF).

For Education Week, WhatTheyThink asked the managers in charge of these organizations to talk about their work primarily in business terms. We also asked them to comment on issues related to what recipients of their scholarships can expect from an industry that is trying to retool its image in ways that will induce more young people to prepare themselves for careers in it.

Ted Ringman is vice president of development at PGSF. The organization, celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, has deep industry roots as the successor to the National Scholarship Trust Foundation, formed in Chicago by the Lithographic Technical Foundation (later the Graphic Arts Technical Foundation, which merged with Printing Industries of America in 1999).

Jeanne Mowlds, executive director of EDSF since its founding in 1996, will retire from the post on January 1, 2008. EDSF was started by Xplor International in 1994 as the Xplor Foundation and relaunched two years later under its present name. Dedicated to enhancing the value and relevance of document communications, EDSF aims to help the industry and the public benefit from paper and electronic documents through a variety of education, research, leadership recognition, and knowledge-sharing programs.

Dollars for Scholars

Both groups are abundant and reliable sources of money for scholarships, although the longer-established PGSF operates on a larger scale. Ringman says that PGSF, which has received requests from more than 1,000 applicants this year, currently sends scholarship checks to 230 students, 100 of whom are new recipients replacing others who have graduated. Of the total, 225 receive average annual stipends of about $1,800; the remainder are recipients of specially endowed "Gutenberg" scholarships worth $5,000 per year.

All told, says Ringman, PGSF's board of directors has approved $450,000 worth of scholarships for the 2007-2008 academic year. The recipients attend 84 of the 230 institutions listed in the PGSF Directory of Schools, a catalog of colleges and universities that offer degrees in graphic communications. According to Ringman, PGSF used to fund a slightly larger number of students, but, faced with the rising cost of education, has opted to put more dollars into fewer grants.

He says it takes $25,000 to fund a $1,500 annual scholarship. About $100,000 in capital is needed to endow a $5,000 scholarship on a sustaining basis. The gems of PGSF's endowment program are the aforementioned "Gutenberg" scholarships, $5,000 annual grants currently being made to five students at Ferris State University (Big Rapids, MI), Clemson University (Clemson, SC), and Waukesha County Technical College (Pewaukee, WI).

Ringman says that PGSF receives "significant donations" both to its annual funds, which are disbursed in the same year in which they are received, and to its endowed funds, which generate money for scholarships from returns on invested capital. An example of a PGSF annual fund is the "2x4" program, contributions to which are solicited on the theme, "What can you build with a 2x4?" Donors to this program are invited to fund two $1,500 scholarships for four or five years, and many, according to Ringman, find it a convenient way to budget their contributions to education over a fixed period of time.

Record Cash Infusion

PGSF's permanent scholarship endowments now total $9 million, a sum that generates the interest from which the scholarship stipends come. ("We never touch the principal," Ringman says.) Earlier this year, PGSF reported receiving a record $650,000 endowment from the Employing Printers Education Trust (EPET). EPET is the educational legacy of Master Printers of America, the former PIA special interest group for non-union member companies.

PGSF manages the EPET scholarship fund, and it was from this source that the $650,000 endowment—the largest single infusion of cash that PGSF has ever received—was drawn. Ringman says that the windfall funded the five Gutenberg scholarships and has made the difference, in some cases, between a student's finding the money to attend college vs. being forced to scrap his or her plans for higher education.

EDSF began subsidizing education with the grant of a single scholarship in 1999, when one scholarship was awarded. Since then, says Mowlds, it has awarded 225 scholarships worth a combined total of $355,000. This year, EDSF has presented 45 scholarships ranging in value from $750 to $5,000. (The average valueis $2,000.) Current recipients attend 34 different schools in the U.S., Canada, Nigeria, and China. The same eligibility requirements, says Mowlds, must be met by all applicants.

Naturally, both organizations are keenly aware of trends that can affect donations to industry scholarship and education funds, and Ringman and Mowlds are of one mind about the obstacles their foundations frequently have to face. A never-ending exercise for fundraisers, notes Ringman, is getting and keeping a sufficient number of people involved in support for education—not just at the university level, but in continuing education for current employees. Everyone agrees that it's urgent to support education. But when potential donors discover how costly a proposition it can be, Ringman says, securing their commitments can become "very challenging."

Many Palms Upturned

"Raising money is always difficult" for not-for-profits in any industry, concurs Mowlds. Her group (unlike PGSF, which is administered by PIA/GATF) does not have the support of a parent organization, and all funds are raised through the wholly voluntary efforts of its 25-member board of directors. She says that these volunteers must be persistent in their campaigns to attract and keep donors, because "the competition is always there" in the form of appeals from other fund-raising entities.

Faced with multiple requests for money, "our donors are pulled in different directions," says Mowlds. And, although EDSF's fundraising for scholarships must be continuous, the foundation must also strive to avoid overlapping its efforts with those of other print industry groups with the same fundraising aim.

To the question of whether there is a relationship between the pace of scholarship contributions and the general economic condition of the industry, the obvious answer is the correct one. Mowlds says that EDSF has seen the correlation all too clearly: "We definitely have lost some contributors because of economics." She observes that in difficult times, when companies are sold, merged, or just forced out of business, it's common for fundraising groups to lose key contacts and the donations that these givers could be counted on to provide.

Nevertheless, says Mowlds, "some companies have always left a little money in their budgets for EDSF, no matter what. They believe in what we're doing, and they always find a way to give." (For more about EDSF, see the Education Week interview with Mowlds and her successor as executive director, Brenda Kai.)

Ringman also sees a "clear correlation" between contributions to annual scholarships and the economy, particularly on the corporate side. PGSF's endowments, on the other hand, tend to remain "pretty stable." Thanks to good management and judicious investment in a mix of U.S. and foreign securities, says Ringman, the endowed funds achieved a cumulative return of 11.66% last year. Most of that income is distributed directly to students in the form of stipends.

No Dearth of the Deserving

Those involved in philanthropy sometimes will say that it can be harder than most people realize to give money away. This is not a besetting issue for PGSF and EDSF. "We've always had more applicants than we've had money," Ringman says. Mowlds notes that while it can be tricky for long-established, heavily endowed organizations to find enough qualified recipients for the millions of dollars they wish to disburse, "EDSF, fortunately, has not had that difficulty." In fact, the foundation typically receives requests from twice as many applicants as it can provide scholarships for.

Nevertheless, Mowlds says, "it's an issue giving away money where it needs to be," since EDSF must be certain that its recipients are serious in their pursuit of careers in document management and graphic communications. To this end, one of the two essays that EDSF applicants are required to write must be about industry trends. This and other aspects of the application process are designed to winnow out those whose knowledge of and interest in the industry may not be substantial enough to justify an investment of always-scarce scholarship dollars.

Those who do qualify can apply their stipends to any applicable field of study. Ringman says that most PGSF grants go to students in four-year degree programs, with a smaller number supporting students seeking two-year and postgraduate degrees. About 60 percent of recipients are enrolled in graphic communications degree programs that may also include non-print graphic media. Most of the rest, says Ringman, take part in traditional degree programs with "print" in the title and ink-on-paper production as the curricular emphasis.

Most EDSF grants go to juniors, seniors, and graduate students at accredited colleges and universities with qualifying study programs. A few stipends are set aside for high school students preparing to enter eligible two-year programs. Mowlds says that although all recipients must demonstrate that they are studying for future employment in document management and graphic communications, EDSF also counts computer science, business, and multimedia studies as eligible disciplines since the industry will need to recruit people with skills in these areas as well. Many schools, she says, now offer courses in document management subjects that conform to EDSF's academic requirements.

Research Grants for Instructors

Since neither PGSF nor EDSF has teacher training as a core mission, the grants that the groups provide are reserved almost exclusively for students. Ringman notes that PGSF's umbrella organization, PIA/GATF, makes "a very strong effort" on behalf of train-the-trainer programs. EDSF has taken a step in this direction by offering grants of $3,000 and $5,000 to college instructors who undertake research into the document management and graphic communications marketplaces. These recipients are assisted in their investigations by small groups of students, and EDSF provides mentors to guide the projects. In this way, the recipients gain exposure to new trends and developments that can broaden their knowledge and enrich their teaching.

As part of its Excellence in Education Awards program, EDSF has arranged for teachers to attend trade shows and industry conferences. A few years ago, the foundation conceived an expanded scholarship program that would have included funding for academic departments at the student recipients' schools. Mowlds says that although lack of money kept EDSF from launching the program, the idea could be revived on a trial basis with a sufficient contribution of cash from a supportive donor.

The View from the "Summit"

Download a MP3 from from the Education Summit.
126MB MP3

Many issues related directly to the work of the two organizations were raised at the "Education Summit" hosted by PGSF on September 11 at Graph Expo in Chicago. The session, says Ringman, drew an audience of 150 educators, association executives, printers, and vendors. The 10 speakers and all of PGSF's officers have formed a post-summit committee that will meet or teleconference quarterly to act upon the concerns expressed at the meeting. Ringman says that on October 28, 2008, during next year's Graph Expo, the committee will present a "make-good report" on progress in addressing these concerns.

Mowlds, a member of the PGSF board, reports the Education Summit was "an excellent opportunity for dialogue" that raised the visibility of many matters surrounding recruitment and training. One of them stems from what a PGSF post-summit press release describes as "the U.S. Department of Labor's outdated descriptions and classifications of the industry's segments." Ringman says that PIA is working with The Print Council to make an appeal for change to the federal agency, which propagates the disputed language through its Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

The nub of the problem, Ringman explains, is that the agency uses the outmoded terminology in its "Occupational Outlook Handbook," a document on which the states often base decisions about public funding for job development and training. Because its information is outdated, the handbook tends to paint a negative and pessimistic picture of the printing industry, which it does not even call by its contemporary name, graphic communications. Instead, notes Ringman, the handbook continues to list "etchers," "engravers," and "photographic machine operators" among its print industry job descriptions, predicting employment declines in these and other categories that no longer exist.

Mowlds agrees that the classifications and titles are part of an "antiquated" terminology that fails describes what industry employment has become. In surveys and censuses that use this misleading vocabulary, she notes, "there's no place to put" real-world information about graphic communications jobs as people are performing them today.

They Said, "Staid"

According to the same PGSF press release, another consensus expressed at the summit was, "It is clear that most young people think printing is staid and dirty." Ringman and Mowlds agree that a primary objective for their organizations—and for everyone concerned about the industry's ability to attract new talent—is to defeat the stereotypes while presenting an attractive but factual picture of careers in graphic communications.

Ringman says that PGSF and PIA believe in projecting "a realistic view of the industry" such as the one offered in a recruitment video produced by the Printing Industry of Minnesota (PIM), a PIA affiliate. He notes that while some printing occupations do involve "heavy lifting" and other nitty-gritty chores, it's not misleading to promote the "cleanliness" of high-tech printing jobs to students pursuing the four-year degrees they will need to qualify for those kinds of positions. Moreover, it would be wrong to assume that all young people find the industry's manufacturing image off-putting. In 2004, Ringman says, PGSF saw for the first time that 50% of its applicants were young women seeking various careers in printing.

An effective form of outreach for PGSF is provided by PrintWorkers.com, an online job and résumé board operated by the print industry recruitment firm Semper International. Brian Regan, president of Semper, lets PIA members search the résumés of PGSF scholarship recipients free of charge at Printworkers.com. The service includes a free internship posting option for companies wishing to offer internships to these students.

Regan also hosts PGSF in a domain he has created in the online community Second Life. Those with Second Life "avatars"—registered virtual personalities—can visit the location that Regan has set up for PIA/GATF, within which is a kiosk dedicated to PGSF. The PIM video can be seen here, and soon, says Ringman, the space will host a virtual "interviewing class" led by a Semper professional who will coach participants in skills for employment interviews. (For more about Semper's colonization of Second Life, see the recent WTT interview with Regan.)

Let's Get "Current and Future"

Mowlds says epithets like "dirty," "staid, " and "poorly paid" are nothing more than "generalities that don't represent the industry as it is today." The trouble, she notes, is that this realization isn't spreading into the world at large, where the potential employees are.

"We must get current and future in our thinking," says Mowlds, if we are to overcome misconceptions not only in the minds of students, but in the opinions of their parents, teachers, and guidance counselors as well. She recommends starting the outreach in the middle-school grades, and she urges friends of print education to remember the need to build a future workforce more diversified than the all-male bastion the industry traditionally has been.

Mowlds points out that graphic communications isn't the only technology-based industry that's having trouble attracting the best and the brightest. Fifteen years ago, she says, PC manufacturers and software houses were the biggest draws for talented young job-seekers with technical backgrounds.

But not any more, according to Mowlds: "Today, instead of wanting to work for Lotus and Microsoft, they all want to work for Google."

Patrick Henry, Executive Editor for WhatTheyThink.com is also the director of Liberty or Death Communications, a consultancy specializing in research, education, promotional, and editorial support services for the printing and publishing industries.

Patrick Henry is available for speaking engagements and consulting projects. To get more information contact us here.

Please offer your feedback to Patrick. He can be reached at patrick.henry@whattheythink.com.



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