Starting a scholarship is an exciting and rewarding experience! It’s a unique opportunity to turn a student’s dream into a reality. Scholarships can provide life-changing financial aid to students from a variety of different backgrounds.

Who you choose to help is completely in your hands. For example, your scholarship could target students who share similar backgrounds or interests. A common theme we see is donors supporting students from their high school, but you can also make your scholarship more general and help low-income students or students with disabilities as an example.

Another reason to begin a scholarship fund is to memorialize a loved one and honor their life. As friends and family can also contribute, it can be a powerful healing experience.

In addition, many companies build scholarships to continue the legacy of an important person in their organization. It’s a great way to show your school, company, or organization’s commitment to social responsibility and student development as well.

Now that we’ve figured out the why, let’s break down the steps to go through when figuring out how to start a scholarship fund:

how to start a scholarship fund

Step 1: Decide which students you’d like to support

The first step to figuring out how to start a scholarship fund is to decide who your scholarship is for. There are many different options as you can use a wide range of criteria. The most common ones are:

  • High school or university (e.g. you or a loved one’s alma mater)
  • Home city or state
  • Age or grade level

However, there are many others to keep in mind, including:

  • Gender
  • GPA
  • Major
  • Financial need
  • Extracurricular activities
  • Sports
  • Ethnicity
  • Religion

Additionally, you’ll want to decide the criteria that you’ll use to judge applications. Many scholarships look into factors like financial need, academic achievement, community involvement, work history, the scholarship essay, or achievements in specific fields.

So, for example, let’s say that you decide your scholarship is for high school students intending to major in music education. Will you award your scholarship to future college students in need? Or future college students with outstanding academic achievement?

Alternatively, you can award students who have already demonstrated success in the field of music education through community involvement or work.  

how to start a scholarship fund

Step 2: Figure Out the Logistics

Once you’ve decided who your scholarship is for, it’s time to concentrate on the logistics. Check out these key questions you should ask when figuring out how to start a scholarship fund:

  • How many students will receive the scholarship per year?
  • How much is the award worth?
  • Is your scholarship a one-time award or renewable?
  • How will students apply?
  • When is the deadline?

P.S. When deciding how students will apply for your scholarship, we can help out and handle the logistics for you! We help you:

  • Build a website for your award
  • Add a donation link so family and friends can contribute 
  • Set your eligibility requirements
  • Create the online application
  • Reach out to the eligible students
  • Receive and review the completed applications

If you’re ready to start one right away, click here to set up a call with our team or you can build it yourself here.

Step 3: Determine How Your Scholarship Will Be Funded

So you have all of the information and criteria ready to go, but where will you get the money? Funding the scholarship is often the most difficult part to decide when figuring out how to start a scholarship fund. Luckily, there are tons of options available!

One of the most common ways to raise money for your scholarship is to get people to donate to it. This can be done through fundraising events or online crowdfunding sites. If you host your scholarship with Going Merry, we make it easy by allowing you to raise donations through our site!

Otherwise, if your company is hosting a scholarship, you can set aside a specific number of funds each year. Or if you’re creating a memorial scholarship, perhaps personal funds or inheritance money can be used for funding.

how to start a scholarship fund

Step 4: Review the Tax Guidelines

Keep in mind that many scholarships are tax deductible, so it’s a great idea to meet with a tax expert beforehand to make sure that you meet all the requirements. For more information, check out these guidelines.

Step 5: Advertise it!

There’s not much sense in having a scholarship fund if nobody knows about it! One of the most crucial parts when figuring out how to start a scholarship fund is advertisement! How will you make sure that students hear about the opportunity?

Social media can be a huge help, especially since high school and college students tend to spend a lot of time on major sites like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Your website is another great option and, especially if your scholarship is local, getting in contact with colleges and universities in the area can be an effective marketing tactic as well.

When it comes to outreach, Going Merry also has you covered. We have relationships with over 2,500 schools across the country and have helped people manage thousands of scholarships already. Through our network, we can advise you on how many applications to expect and then help you get them!

To give you an idea, here are just a few of the amazing, diverse scholarships that we’ve added to our site:

Jennie Goas Memorial Scholarship: Two female students in Chicago recently won $10K in scholarship money from this generous award created by a local woman in memory of her best friend.

Tara Grinstead Memorial Scholarship: This memorial scholarship was founded by a Georgia TV station to honor the memory of a beauty pageant participant whose murder they helped to solve.

Caleb Tripp Thornton Memorial Scholarship: Created by his sister in memory of Caleb Tripp, this scholarship has raised $5K of its $26K target so far.

Helen Herzberg Memorial Scholarship: This scholarship was created by a couple in California in loving memory of the wife’s mother. The couple designed their wedding so that friends and family could donate directly to the scholarship.

Lincoln J. Powers Memorial Scholarship: A Utah family started this scholarship fund in honor of their son, who was killed in a fatal car accident.

Bill Browning Memorial Scholarship (Dallas & Ann Arbor): These two scholarships were created by a successful entrepreneur, the Founder of Bonobos and Trunk Club, to honor the memory of one of his family’s teachers.

WillowTree Scholarship in Honor of Whitney French: This generous scholarship was created by the employer of a domestic violence victim in Virginia. Students majoring in graphic design are eligible to apply.

Courtney C. Gregoire Memorial Fund: In memory of a suicide victim, this scholarship is aimed at helping young women with mental health issues succeed and pursue higher education.

Phoenix Home Services Felon Reform Scholarship: This scholarship is aimed at helping adults with prior convictions, especially felonies, to reenter the workforce. This scholarship can go towards training in a variety of fields.

Compassionate Leadership Apprentices: This scholarship makes paying for school easier for high school students intending to pursue a vocational education.

National Art & Trade Tuition Opportunity Scholarship: This scholarship supports students who are pursuing a career in sequential art, such as comics, animation, storybooks, or children’s books.

how to start a scholarship fund

Want to Make the Process Easier?  Let Us Handle It

Going Merry handles the logistics for you. We help you:

  • Build a website for your award
  • Add a donation link so family and friends can contribute too
  • Set your eligibility requirements
  • Create the online application
  • Reach out to the eligible students
  • Receive and review the completed applications

If you’re ready to start one right away, click here to set up a call with our team or you can build it yourself here.

If you already offer a scholarship and want to make it easier for students to find, we match your scholarship with the right students and collect application materials in one convenient place. Plus, we provide you with a Going Merry login that can be used to review completed applications and we always offer outstanding customer service along the way to make the process as easy as possible from beginning to end. Not to mention, helping students is at the core of our mission and vision at all times!

how to start a scholarship fund

And Congratulations! You’ve successfully taken a step in the right direction and are about to make a huge difference in the lives of students by helping them avoid student debt and make their dreams a reality.

What other questions do you have on how to start a scholarship fund? What scholarship would you like to create? Let us know below!