How to Start a Scholarship Fund

Embarking on the journey of creating a scholarship fund is a noble and impactful way to make a difference in the lives of students and your community. Whether you’re an individual, a family, a business, or an organization, this guide will walk you through the process from start to finish, ensuring your endeavor is both successful and rewarding.

Understanding the Basics

Before diving into the details, it’s important to debunk a common myth: scholarship funds are not exclusive to large corporations, universities, or government entities. Anyone with a vision and determination can establish a scholarship fund. The reasons for starting a fund are varied – from honoring a loved one, supporting a cause, to contributing to the educational landscape of your community. The impact is profound: helping students realize their academic dreams and potentially altering the course of their lives.

The Benefits of Starting a Scholarship Fund

  1. Empowering Education: Scholarships can be the key that unlocks the door to higher education for many students, especially those facing financial barriers. This support can lead to a more diverse, educated, and skilled workforce.
  2. Community Contribution: Establishing a scholarship is a powerful way to give back to your community and support the youth in their academic and professional journeys.
  3. Legacy Building: A scholarship fund can be a lasting tribute to an individual, a family legacy, or an organization’s commitment to social responsibility.
  4. Tax Advantages: There are potential tax benefits to starting a scholarship fund, depending on how it’s structured and the assets involved.

Steps to Setting Up a Scholarship Fund

  1. Identify Your Vision: Determine who you want to support. This could be students from a certain background, those pursuing specific fields of study, or students with particular needs or challenges.
  2. Decide on the Fund Type: You can opt for a one-time scholarship, an annual award, or an endowed fund. Each has its own setup and implications for how long your fund will last and how much you need to start.
  3. Set Your Criteria: Clearly define the eligibility requirements. This could include academic achievements, financial need, fields of study, community involvement, or specific essays.
  4. Choose a Platform or Partner: Decide if you’ll manage the fund yourself or collaborate with an existing foundation or scholarship management service. Platforms like offer streamlined processes for setting up and managing scholarships.
  5. Create a Budget: Assess how much you can contribute and determine the size and frequency of the scholarships. Remember, even small scholarships can have a big impact.
  6. Handle Legalities: If you’re setting up the fund independently, ensure you comply with legal and tax requirements. This might involve creating a legal entity, such as a trust or a nonprofit organization.
  7. Promote Your Scholarship: Once your scholarship is established, use various channels to promote it. This includes social media, local schools and universities, community organizations, and any other relevant platforms.
  8. Select Recipients: Depending on your level of involvement, you can be directly involved in the selection process or delegate it to a committee or partner organization.
  9. Award and Follow-Up: After awarding the scholarship, stay engaged. You might want to track the progress of the recipients to see the tangible impact of your fund.
  10. Review and Adjust: Continuously evaluate the effectiveness of your scholarship fund. Gather feedback and make adjustments as needed to ensure it remains aligned with your goals and effective in its impact.

How Much Money Do You Need to Endow a Scholarship?

Endowing a scholarship can be a significant but highly rewarding undertaking. The amount of money needed to endow a scholarship varies depending on the size and scope of the award you wish to provide. In the United States, the typical range to endow a scholarship starts from as little as $10,000 to $25,000. This amount is considered the principal, which is invested to generate interest. The interest earned from this investment is then used to fund the scholarship.

For example, if you want to offer a $1,000 scholarship every year, you might need an endowment of around $20,000 to $25,000. This calculation is based on an average return rate of 4-5%. However, these figures can fluctuate based on the investment strategies and the performance of the financial market.

How Much Should a Scholarship Fund Be?

Determining the size of a scholarship fund largely depends on your goals and resources. There’s no one-size-fits-all answer. Scholarship funds can range from modest amounts that cover books and supplies to larger sums that cover full tuition fees.

If you’re aiming for a one-time scholarship, even $500 to $1,000 can make a significant difference for a student. For an annual scholarship, you might consider a larger amount, factoring in the number of years you plan to offer the scholarship and the expected increase in educational costs.

Remember, the size of the scholarship doesn’t diminish its value or impact. Even small amounts can be greatly appreciated and impactful for students in need.

How Can I Raise Money for a Scholarship Fund?

Raising money for a scholarship fund can be an exciting and community-involved process. Here are some strategies:

  1. Personal Contributions: Start with your own contribution to set the foundation of the scholarship fund.
  2. Crowdfunding: Platforms like GoFundMe or Kickstarter can be used to raise funds. Share your scholarship’s story and goals to attract donations.
  3. Community Events: Organize fundraising events like charity dinners, sports events, or local concerts. Engaging the community often results in generous contributions.
  4. Corporate Sponsorships: Approach businesses for sponsorships. Many companies are eager to contribute to educational causes as part of their corporate social responsibility.
  5. Social Media Campaigns: Use social media platforms to spread the word about your scholarship fund. Engaging storytelling and regular updates can encourage people to contribute.
  6. Alumni Networks: If the scholarship is associated with a specific school or university, reaching out to alumni can be effective.

Remember, transparency about how the funds will be used and the impact of the scholarship can encourage more people to contribute.

Can a Business Write Off a Scholarship?

Yes, businesses in the USA can typically write off scholarships as a charitable donation, provided they adhere to certain rules set by the IRS. The scholarship must be given to a qualified individual for educational purposes and should not be a payment for services. Moreover, the business must not receive any substantial benefit in return for the scholarship.

The scholarship should be awarded on an objective and non-discriminatory basis. Businesses cannot restrict the scholarship to employees or their children, nor can they use it as a disguised form of compensation.

It’s essential for businesses to keep accurate records of the scholarship for tax purposes. Consulting with a tax professional is advisable to ensure compliance with IRS regulations and to understand the implications for your business’s tax situation.


Starting a scholarship fund is a remarkable way to contribute to the educational and professional futures of students. It’s a journey that not only benefits the recipients but also enriches your life or that of your organization. With careful planning, clear vision, and dedicated execution, your scholarship fund can become a beacon of hope and opportunity for many.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *