How a Nonprofit Can Set Up a Scholarship

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Scholarships are one of many tools used by nonprofit organizations to do charitable work. And given the continuing increase in education costs, scholarships from private organizations have become even more important for struggling students and their families. If your nonprofit wants to become one of the many entities providing funding for students, the process of creating a scholarship program is straightforward but requires some planning.

Whom Does It Target?

Most nonprofits name their scholarship programs after the organization, but far too many neglect to determine what students the program should target. Creating a specific target group gives the scholarship a focus and also makes it easier to attract and select the best candidates. Scholarships can be open to students pursuing a specific degree, those of a specific ancestry or ethnicity or those from a specific state, among other options. Some nonprofits create gender-specific scholarships, which are predominantly for women and aim to increase the number of female graduates.

Application Requirements?

It is essential that a scholarship program have qualifying requirements that help the nonprofit select the best recipients. As such, choose which requirements are most important. If your organization focuses on animal welfare, for instance, it can limit application to students who aim to become veterinarians. Generally, most scholarships require the completion of an application form, resume, recommendations and a transcript. Scholarships for students with the most financial need require a copy of the applicant’s Free Application for Federal Student Aid form. The FAFSA is used by the federal government to determine how much to give applicants based on their family's income. Your organization can use FAFSA information to decide how much to give a recipient.

Is It Tied To a Specific School?

If your nonprofit conducts programs with a neighboring college or university, it may be best to make the proposed scholarship school-specific. In that case, the school can take over the burden of administering the scholarship, allowing your nonprofit to allocate its limited staff and funding to other essential affairs. For a school-specific program, work with the potential school's financial aid department to determine the details of the arrangement, such as when scholarships should be disbursed. Keep in mind that the alternative to a school-specific scholarship program will draw large numbers of applicants, making it difficult for a small nonprofit to efficiently review and select candidates.

Raise Money and Report Funds

There is no rule on how much money a nonprofit needs to create a scholarship. The organization need only solicit funds from individuals and groups to create adequate funding for the program. If the scholarship is for one student each application period, the amount can be as little as $500. If the money is for multiple students, raising thousands enables the scholarship program to support more candidates.


About the Author

Sydelle John is a lawyer who started writing professionally in 2007. She has written for the Guardian's Comment is Free and Pambazuka News, which focuses on pan-African issues. John has a Juris Doctor from the George Washington University Law School and a Bachelor of Arts in political science from Vassar College.

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