How to Set Up a Scholarship Fund

You can start a scholarship through a college or a community foundation.

I’d like to start a scholarship fund in memory of my friend who just passed away. How much money do I need to set one up, and how do I go about doing it?

Starting a scholarship fund is easy, and it’s a wonderful way to honor a friend or relative while helping kids afford college or providing the kind of opportunity you had as a student. You can contact the development office at a university or work with a community foundation to set up a scholarship fund.

You need about $20,000 to $25,000 to endow a scholarship that pays out $1,000 every year, but each institution sets its own rules. For instance, San Diego State University currently requires $50,000 to endow a $2,000 annual scholarship, or you can commit to giving $5,000 a year over three years to finance three $5,000 annual scholarships. The medical school at the University of California, Los Angeles, requires $100,000 to endow a $5,000 annual scholarship, but you can create a scholarship for one year with just $1,000.

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Most community foundations can also help you set up scholarships that don’t have to be tied to a particular college. (You can find a community foundation in your area at www.cof.org/locator (opens in new tab).) Some have more experience running scholarships than others. For example, at Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta, “we have about 30 scholarships, and some have criteria based on GPA, some are based on certain high schools or going to certain colleges. It runs the gamut,” says Christy Eckoff, director of gift planning for the foundation. The school or foundation will manage the money and look for applicants. You may be able to sit on the selection committee, although you can’t be the main decision-maker.

For more information about setting up a scholarship fund, see Help Students by Funding a Scholarship.

Kimberly Lankford
Contributing Editor, Kiplinger's Personal Finance

As the "Ask Kim" columnist for Kiplinger's Personal Finance, Lankford receives hundreds of personal finance questions from readers every month. She is the author of Rescue Your Financial Life (McGraw-Hill, 2003), The Insurance Maze: How You Can Save Money on Insurance -- and Still Get the Coverage You Need (Kaplan, 2006), Kiplinger's Ask Kim for Money Smart Solutions (Kaplan, 2007) and The Kiplinger/BBB Personal Finance Guide for Military Families. She is frequently featured as a financial expert on television and radio, including NBC's Today Show, CNN, CNBC and National Public Radio.