September 08, 2023

Scholar Fund helps families find relief faster with Plaid

alt text

Liam Plambeck
Professional Services, Plaid

Liam Plambeck is a technical product specialist on the professional services team at Plaid, where he works with Plaid’s largest clients to help build, implement and scale best-in-class Identity Verification solutions.

Scholar Fund is a non-profit offering education, workforce placement, and financial assistance for underserved communities. Recently, they managed the application and distribution of a $5 million fund supporting over 6,000 Washington families and 20,000 children that are 200% below the poverty line. 

To make this a successful experience, Scholar Fund needed to find the right partner to boost their anti-fraud measures while helping applicants feel comfortable and safe—a delicate balancing act.

At the same time, fraudsters are targeting relief funds, taking money from families who need it, and making it harder for non-profits like Scholar Fund to secure their processes. To make matters more challenging, having applicants jump through hoops can feel like asking them to prove that they’re worthy of assistance. 

Scholar Fund reached out to Plaid for help adding more anti-fraud measures to the application process without creating friction. Scholar Fund needed to tackle three challenges to improve this process:

  • Digitizing their identity verification process to keep out fraudsters 

  • Improving the manual review process to make the most of tight resources 

  • Expanding verification coverage to give people more access to funding

Protecting organizations like Scholar Fund with the right anti-fraud technology means supporting marginalized communities and unlocking financial freedom for more people. 

Digitizing identity verification 

Before Plaid, Scholar Fund had to manually verify applications for the Washington Family Relief Fund, which is time-intensive and creates room for error. Verifying applications efficiently matters even more when the support could determine a family’s ability to make rent or buy groceries. 

Because Scholar Fund caters to all different kinds of people, they also work with a wide variety of identity documents, creating an even higher workload for a team of around 30 employees.

This means that coverage–or the breadth of documents an identity verification tool can validate–was an important consideration for them. Scholar Fund also needed Spanish language support for around 27% of their applicants for this fund, making localization a priority. 

To prevent fraud and protect their applicants’ sensitive information, Scholar Fund needed a solution they could trust. That’s when they turned to Plaid. 

Verifying identities in seconds  

In under a month, Scholar Fund went live with Plaid Identity Verification and automated verification for 85% of the 51,000+ applications they received. Without Plaid, it may have taken Scholar Fund weeks of cumulative effort to manually verify this portion of the applications. 

The majority of the applications Scholar Fund verified with Plaid used Lightning Verification. Lightning Verification validates information like names, addresses, and birthdates in as little as 10 seconds. To streamline this process, Plaid also helps applicants autofill their personal identity details with information associated with the provided phone number and date of birth, saving them more time, so they can get the help they need even faster. 

Scholar Fund's mission is to connect community needs to opportunities and resources. With the Washington Family Relief Fund, we trusted Plaid to not only level up our identity verification technology but also streamline the application process, helping community members get access to funds even faster. With Plaid, we've been able to distribute millions of dollars to trusted individuals and prevent hundreds of thousands of dollars in attempted fraud.

Brent Schroeter, Director of Engineering, Scholar Fund

Approximately 25% of the applications that Scholar Fund verified with Plaid required additional checks. This can happen if an applicant’s information isn’t in databases, which could be the case for recent immigrants, or if there are discrepancies between applications and records. Scholar Fund then asks the applicant to complete document verification, which means providing an identity document to cross-reference. Plaid supports over 16,000 types of identity documents.

Overall, 92% of the applicants verified with Plaid were in-state matches, meaning Scholar Fund validated their identity and that they lived in Washington state, helping applicants confirm their eligibility. 

Plaid was also able to create Spanish-language support in time for Scholar Fund’s launch, opening up the Plaid-enhanced application experience to even more people. 

Protecting marginalized communities   

Using Plaid Identity Verification, Scholar Fund distributed millions quickly and securely–to the people who needed it the most. For non-profits, getting ahead of fraud means protecting some of the most vulnerable members of our community. 

Learn more about Scholar Fund's community programs.