Establishing a Scholarship Fund in Memoriam

by Abby Henthorn

by Celia Cooksey

The passing of a loved one is always a challenging time, leaving family and friends searching for ways to hold on to their own memories and provide continuity for their loved one’s legacy. One enduring way to honor someone and create a lasting impact is by establishing a memorial scholarship fund. Such a fund pays tribute to the person’s accomplishments and values while offering an opportunity to impact future generations positively.

A memorial scholarship provides direct financial support to people who embody the values and interests of the deceased – often, a senior in high school. These scholarships are often highly personalized and can go toward undergraduate education, graduate school, and even trade schools. Memorial scholarship funds are an empowering way to encourage students who have ambition but lack the financial means to continue their education and, one day, give back to their families and communities.

Establishing a scholarship is not as complicated as it may seem.

Create a Purpose

To ensure your loved one’s legacy lives on, find students who embody their values and interests. For example, if your loved one was an avid athlete and exemplified leadership and a strong work ethic, your scholarship could go to student-athletes who demonstrate these same qualities. You can also dictate parameters to fit the identity of the person you’re memorializing, such as only taking applications from women in STEM, Black students attending an HBCU, or students raised by a single parent.

Initial Donation and Continued Funding

Consider your budget and how you will fund the scholarship. Often, scholarships are seeded with one large initial donation, and the interest generated is what is distributed to students. Family, friends and the community can always opt to contribute more to the fund’s principal at any time.

Find a Foundation or Manager

If you want to establish a scholarship for a specific college or university, often those institutions will have development offices to manage scholarship funds for their own students.

If your scholarship will be available to students irrespective of where they chose to go for higher education, partnering with a community foundation is often the best route. The foundation will be familiar with how to manage scholarships, and by taking only a small percentage from the portfolio, the foundation can invest the funds and collect interest to add to the scholarship, making it an endowed scholarship.

Choose Your Recipients

Once you’ve established your purpose and funded the scholarship, it’s time to change lives. You and your family should discuss what qualities and values you would like to see reflected in scholarship recipients, and then share those with the fund manager. If someone in the family would like to be a part of the scholarship selection committee, the fund manager will let you know if that is possible and what steps to take to make it happen.

Scholarship funds are tax-deductible as long as the dollars are used to help students pay direct education costs and are awarded on an objective and nondiscriminatory basis.

Through careful planning and dedication, a memorial scholarship fund can transform loss into a celebration of life and knowledge, leaving behind a legacy that will forever inspire and uplift others.

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