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How to Start a Scholarship Fund to Honor a Loved One

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Paige Kutilek
|5 min read

Crowdfunding

Perhaps you were recently struck with some ground-shaking news—a loved one has passed away after a long fight with an illness. Deeply saddened with the loss and in the midst of grieving, you may look to find solace in some kind of memorial. Since your loved one made a lasting impact on your life and the community, you may want to celebrate this individual who contributed a lasting positive influence on others.

You can pay homage to their accomplishments by keeping their memory alive. You can start a scholarship fund to memorialize a specific person. These funds reflect the individual in some way, often to honor a specific contribution or skill that inspires future generations.

A common misconception about scholarships is that they are only started by governments, universities, or corporations. In reality, any individual can establish one. In order to start a scholarship fund, you need to determine the criteria, which you can personalize to pay tribute to your loved one.

Picking a category

There are several categories to pick from, including sports, financial need, community service, writing, and academic achievement. This is where you want to take some time to think about the legacy of your loved one. What unique skills did they have? What was their favorite subject in school? How did they influence the community? Here you can tailor the scholarship to commemorate their life. For example, if your loved one was a talented painter, then you might customize your scholarship for students attending art school.

Deciding intention

An important distinction to make with any scholarship is to outline where the funds intend to be distributed. It is no surprise that the cost of education extends beyond just tuition. You can allocate a specific amount of funds to be used for textbooks, school supplies, tuition, and housing.

Keep in mind that you will need to determine the duration. Your scholarship can be a one-time gift or an annual fund, in which you provide a fixed amount for a predetermined amount of years. The last option would be to create an endowment, which is permanent.

Determining qualifications

Each scholarship has specific qualifications that students must meet in order to qualify. It is common to set an average GPA that students must meet and to ask students to list their grades as well as extracurricular activities. Scholarships for athletes will look different than those that are merit-based. For example, a merit-based scholarship may require multiple teacher recommendation letters. Design your scholarship towards its purpose, always keeping your loved one’s legacy in mind.

Selecting a name for your scholarship

The name is an important factor to consider. Include your loved one’s name, or nickname, in the name of the scholarship itself. Keep it short and to the point, so people will learn its purpose without extra information.

Good examples of names from GoFundMe include:

The application and selection process

You can either design a paper application or an online application. Here you should take the time to spell out the qualifications. Try to think of questions that will showcase the student’s skills and academic background.

Keep in mind that you will need to set a deadline for the application, the most common time being spring. Make sure to give yourself enough time to review each applicant to make a well-rounded decision. We recommend establishing a specific rubric for determining the winner, so that the decision process remains consistent and unbiased.

How to register your scholarship fund

You can contact a community foundation to help you create a scholarship, but this may limit your say on its specific criteria. To find one in your area, use this community foundation locator. Also, you can work with a school or university to develop a scholarship. Most have a minimum fund amount requirement.

You do have the option of applying to be recognized as a charity under 503(c)(3), so that donors can receive tax benefits. Throughout this process, it is important to refer to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to make sure your scholarship criteria complies with the state and federal guidelines. Note that scholarships, referred to as grants by the IRS, must be awarded on a nondiscriminatory basis.

Finding funding

Crowdfunding is a valuable tool for raising funds. A crowdfunding campaign allows for friends, families, and neighbors to come together and provide support during a time of need. By taking fundraising online, crowdfunding can easily connect potential donors with deserving causes to fuse new avenues of support. You can take advantage of your local and online networks in tandem to boost your fundraising efforts. And community members can donate and share your campaign on their social media. If your loved one has touched the lives of your community, then people will jump at the opportunity to help honor their life through a scholarship.

Start a scholarship fund today

The influence of your scholarship will be immeasurable to a student in need of financing a college education. The legacy of your loved one will continue, as students benefit from what you provide them and go on to make a lasting impact on the world. Read these tips for how to start a memorial fund. Check out our fundraising ideas to get some inspiration. Create your free fundraiser and start a scholarship fund today.

Start a scholarship fund

Paige Kutilek

About Paige Kutilek

I'm keen on creating meaningful and thoughtful content that will have an impact. I'm a dedicated individual with a creative touch who is always eager to learn more. Lover of cats, avocados, and tea.

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