Budgeting for a Scholarship Program: A Guide for Organizations - Scholarship America

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Budgeting for a Scholarship Program: A Guide for Organizations

By Scholarship America

Every scholarship program starts with the same goal: making a positive impact on the lives of students. But one of the hardest parts of establishing your program is determining realistic goals and a budget for the program. Just as with every spending decision in your daily life (and at your company), it is vital to spend some time thinking about all the components of your scholarship budget.

Here are three major things to consider when setting your program goals:


1) If your goal is to reach as many students as possible, but your budget does not allow for that all in one year, then it would make sense for you to have the awards be one-time-only with a new group of recipients each year.

2) If your goals include supporting recipients for multiple years with renewable awards, it’s best to start out conservatively in award amounts, because your budget will potentially grow three to four times over the next four years.

3) It is also important to keep in mind that, year over year, the total number of applications is likely to grow as word about the scholarship program spreads.

  • At the outset of the program, it is very important to plan for that growth, and set triggers within your budget accordingly. While more applications are a great testament to the need for your scholarship program, they will also squeeze your budget for additional customer service.

Need help managing or administering a scholarship program? Contact us today.

Balancing Your Budget And Your Scholarship Applicant Pool

The size of your applicant pool is a major factor in your time and budget. On one hand, many scholarship programs use specific eligibility requirements that limit the applicant pool — specific area of study, students from specific schools or geographic areas or children of employees. (At Scholarship America we see this quite often in programs that are offered by corporate foundations or community foundations.)

On the other hand, in a corporate foundation, depending on the size of the budget, because of IRS regulations it is ever so important that you make your scholarship program as “inclusive” as possible.

Regulation 76-47 is very clear that, in a dependent program where awards are granted through corporate foundation monies, only 25% of the eligible applications may be considered recipients. This means that, depending on the budget, the goal should be to attract as many eligible applicants as possible so that all scholarship dollars available can be awarded and not left on the table.

In many community foundations, poor program design can lead to low applicant numbers. It is vital that scholarship programs be designed to attract applicants who are relevant to a sponsor’s goals and objectives, and that those goals keep in mind the needs of students today.

Staying Relevant to Your Scholarship Goals

Once you’ve established your initial goals, don’t forget to reexamine your program every two or three years to compare trends, benchmarks and program data to goals and objectives. First-year goals and objectives can take detours based on budgets, people and actual program data.

In summary, when you are setting your scholarship program goals, you really need to consider who you want to help, what is the potential applicant pool size and how you can most successfully offer a program within your budget.

If you have questions or would like further assistance to design and set up a scholarship program, contact us. Scholarship America has nearly sixty years of experience creating and managing scholarship programs of all sizes, and we’d love to help you as you help others.

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