Perhaps you had a wonderful college adventure that you want
students today to experience. Or you would like to help local
low-income students with their college costs. If you're charitably
inclined, consider setting up a scholarship fund, either directly
with a university or through a community foundation.
Thomas Sternberg was among a small group of students in the late
1960s to major in Chinese language and literature at the University
of Wisconsin-Madison. One of the professors, Chou Kuo-ping,
organized an eight-week study program for six juniors to live with
host families in Taiwan. "That experience was life-changing for
me," says Sternberg, now 64.
As principal at a large insurance agency in White Plains, N.Y.,
Sternberg decided he had the money to help current students embark
on a similar transformative journey. He met with the university's
dean of international studies to discuss setting up a scholarship
program to help students study in Chinese-speaking countries. The
dean suggested dividing Sternberg's $10,000 contribution into 10 to
20 awards of $500 to $1,000 that students could combine with other
scholarships and savings.
Since Sternberg started the program eight years ago, more than
100 students have traveled to China, Taiwan and Hong Kong with help
from the Chou Kuo-ping Awards. He now gives $20,000 annually. The
best part is the letters he receives from the students. "I have
gotten such wonderful responses," he says. "Some of the students
never had a passport, and this changed their lives." He receives a
tax deduction for the cash or appreciated stock he contributes.
Besides working directly with a university, a person who wants
to set up a scholarship can work with a community foundation, a
nonprofit group that addresses local issues. Patricia and Michael
Welborn of Phoenix had been involved in Arizona Community
Foundation programs to support public education and charter
schools. Earlier this year, they decided to use $25,000 in their
donor-advised fund to endow a scholarship of about $1,000 for a
low-income student to attend college in the Phoenix area.
With an endowment, annual income from an investment is used to
fund a scholarship in perpetuity. "That didn't seem like a lot of
money given the cost of higher education, but it really is powerful
for people who have low income," says Patricia, a management
consultant for nonprofits. The foundation places the $25,000 in an
The Arizona Community Foundation told the Welborns to expect
about 100 applicants. Under foundation rules, the couple cannot be
the sole decision-maker but can sit on a committee that selects the
student. The committee was expected to review the applications this
spring. (To find a community foundation in your area, go to the Web
site of the Council on Foundations at
You can work with the college or community foundation to set the
criteria for applicants. The Community Foundation for Greater
Atlanta manages about 30 scholarships. Some focus on grade-point
average, while others are based on the high school or college a
student attends. "It runs the gamut," says Christy Eckoff, director
of gift planning.
Before choosing a foundation, says Diana Hunter, membership
manager of the National Scholarship Providers Association, a trade
group of scholarship sponsors, ask how it spreads the word about
scholarships, chooses the selection committee and invests the
money. Also ask about the number of scholarships it manages and
fees it may charge.
Many colleges and community foundations set minimum contribution
requirements of $20,000 to $25,000 to endow a $1,000 scholarship.
San Diego State University, for example, requires $50,000 to endow
a $2,000 scholarship, or you can commit to finance a $5,000 annual
scholarship for three years.
Also, ask how much contact you'll have with the scholarship
recipients. Michelle Jacobson, director of development for UCLA
health sciences scholarships, sets up one-on-one lunches for donors
and recipients each year. "The students love to meet the donors and
thank them in person," she says.