Case Study | Richmond Promise Adopts SMS To Better Support Students

May 22, 2020
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Launched in January 2016, Richmond Promise is a place-based college success and access initiative located in Richmond, California. Their mission to help support Richmond students gain access to higher education began with the belief that all students should have equal opportunities to develop their skills and reach their full potential. Their programming aims to address some of the common barriers to college success, such as the lack of college awareness in schools, affordability, and limited access to resources.  

Starting with a cohort of 255 students in 2016, Richmond Promise has experienced significant growth over the last few years with 1,000+ scholars currently attending 100+ colleges and universities nationwide. Many of their scholars fall into the low income (72%) and first-generation (71%) demographic categories. Nationally, only 67% of first-generation students persist through college, whereas 73% of all Richmond Promise scholars are currently persisting in college. 

In an effort to break down the barrier to college affordability, Richmond Promise offers its scholars a $1,500 scholarship to help fund their education at any 2-year, 4-year, or career and technical education (CTE) post-secondary institution. Also, as part of their programming, scholars have access to services, such as financial aid workshops, one-on-one advising, and college success coaching for additional support. Richmond Promise’s main goal is to ensure their scholars not only attend college but also obtain the necessary tools and skills to graduate and succeed in their career of choice. 

The Problem

With their first cohort of scholars, Richmond Promise used spreadsheets to record general data and track their students’ progress. This included demographic information, college enrollment information, and scholarship receival information. During their first year, their team realized that in order to improve the outcomes for their students, they needed to further build out their programming to include a more sophisticated case management system. They began their search exploring various CRM (Customer Relational Management) systems built around scholarship programming and even considered building their own customized system with the help of an architect. Ultimately, their team decided these options weren’t flexible enough and relatively overpriced. 

“We’re super obsessed with the CoPilot team...I feel really empowered to use the platform and feel like I can do what I want with it.”

Jessica Rodriguez, Richmond Promise Associate Director of Scholarships & Data

Richmond Promise needed an affordable and flexible system that could manage their organization’s growth. CoPilot—powered by College Forward—was able to deliver a custom solution to their team with enhanced capabilities to meet all of their program-specific needs. Before assisting their staff with the construction of their solution, CoPilot compiled detailed information about their organization to ensure their new system would operate how they wanted it to. From there, CoPilot provided Richmond Promise team members with extremely thorough training modules to teach them how to properly use the system and empower them to train other members of their organization. “Before we had Mogli, I would update Milestones manually and it would take a couple of hours a day. It did not allow me to have time to set up appointments with students and provide one-on-one support,” remarks Rodriguez.

Mogli (SMS) Mass Text Messaging

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, many college students have been heavily impacted and in need of extra assistance. Richmond Promise has been able to regularly send texts with an emergency response fund form to their scholars being affected during this time. Students can fill out the form and team members are able to fulfill their requests in a timely and efficient manner. Their organization has been able to disburse over $50,000 in actual goods over the course of 2 months to their students in need; these include grocery gift cards, laptops, travel reimbursements, etc.


As they continue to expand their programming and services, Richmond Promise plans to design an intake survey for their scholars to complete. The information taken from this survey will allow their team to better understand a student’s needs as they enter college.Eventually, they want to develop it further into a more sophisticated risk assessment tool with a menu of differentiated support options. The tool would better allow the Richmond Promise team to provide pre-emptive support. They are projected to pilot this new process during the Summer of 2020 with their upcoming class of scholarship recipients. 

Copilot has allowed us to again have better and live access to what's going on with students at any point, so we can tell our story a lot better than we were able to in the past.

Jessica Rodriguez, Richmond Promise Associate Director of Scholarships & Data


With the CoPilot Milestones and Mogli SMS integration, Richmond Promise has successfully disbursed over $50,000 in goods over the course of two months to their students affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.