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How to Start a Memorial Scholarship Fund

By Scholarship America

Updated March 2023

When someone holds a special place in your heart, makes a big impact in your life or changes the community for good, it’s fitting to honor their contributions. This is especially true for those who seek to commemorate individuals through a memorial scholarship fund. Education is the gift that lasts a lifetime, and a memorial scholarship program provides a meaningful way for a family, foundation or company to honor that special person while carrying his or her legacy forward to future generations of students.

Memorial scholarship programs are created at all times: a loved one may pass away unexpectedly, and a family wishes to establish a program immediately; or a company may wait a year or two before implementing a program. Whether establishing a program sooner or later, Scholarship America recognizes the sensitive and important nature of making a memorial scholarship program as meaningful as the namesake attached to it.

While each memorial scholarship program is unique in its offering, there are certain scholarship parameters that remain similar when planning.

Here are four common questions people have when looking to create a memorial scholarship:

1) How do I set up a memorial scholarship program?

First, you’ll want to determine how to fund the scholarship program. Will you, your family or an organization fund the program? Will you ask for donations or memorial gifts? If you are accepting monetary donations, will you set up a memorial fund at a bank or work with a nonprofit organization where people can send donations? When thinking about funding, we recommend that you consult a tax advisor or lawyer to ensure that you’re making the best decision for your situation.

2) How soon can I get a program up and running?

Given the details that go into a scholarship program, creating a memorial scholarship will take some time, both in planning and implementation. Here are a few common factors to consider:

  • Eligibility requirements: Do students need to attend a specific school, have an interest in a specific area of study, have a minimum grade point average, etc.?
  • Distribution and award amount: How much money do you plan to have for award distribution? What size of awards would you like to give? Will you offer one-time or renewable scholarships?
  • Frequency: How often will you or your organization offer the scholarship program?
  • Evaluation, selection and notification: Who will design the application, evaluate submitted applications, make award selections and respond to student and parent questions?
  • Fund availability: A scholarship program cannot run until the funds are available for award distribution.

Typically, once you have finalized the requirements of your memorial scholarship program, it’s good to plan for a minimum of six to eight weeks for a program to launch.

3) How much does it cost to offer a memorial scholarship program?

The cost of a memorial scholarship program varies based on size of the program. Factors that influence size include things such as the number of anticipated applicants and number of recipients. When budgeting, one important detail to consider is the cost of a third-party administrator and total award distribution. A minimum management fee is generally around $5,000.

4) Who can help you manage your memorial scholarship program?

Organizations that may be able to assist you with your memorial scholarship program include your local school, community foundation, Dollars for Scholars affiliate or a scholarship management organization such as Scholarship America.

Creating a scholarship takes a lot of thought but can have incredible impact as you seek to commemorate the important person in your life. If you’re interested in starting a memorial scholarship program, contact Scholarship America – our experts can help you navigate through creating and managing a program that leaves a legacy.

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