Your alma mater needs you. Alumni giving hasn't recovered to
pre-financial-crisis levels, and colleges and universities must
wage even tougher battles to wrest money from fiscally strapped
states. You may feel pinched yourself. But you can still make a big
impact if you magnify the size of a scholarship fund by rallying
others to your cause. Collective giving has become more common in
recent years, universities report.
Start Your Own Charity
Shawn Riley has won over more than 150 people to help him raise
money for a scholarship at Ohio Wesleyan University that honors
Riley's son, Aaron. Aaron was a 2011 graduate of OWU who died from
an epileptic seizure while swimming last July. His father's goal is
to raise $100,000 for the scholarship by the one-year anniversary
of Aaron's death.
When he died, Aaron was wearing an epilepsy awareness bracelet
on his wrist that read, "Out of the Shadows." Those words defined
his struggle, says Riley. Aaron lived a full and adventurous life
despite frequent seizures. "Trying to bring epilepsy out of the
shadows was a challenge that he had taken on, so we wanted to
create a memorial that would have a positive effect for other young
people living with epilepsy," Riley says.
The scholarship, about $5,000 annually, will be awarded to an
OWU student with epilepsy who keeps a 3.0 grade point average (see
details on giving at
; click on the "Designation" drop-down menu). If such a student
isn't found, the scholarship may go to a student studying
neuroscience or a related field.
Riley doesn't think that will be an issue, though he says the
university expressed concern that the guidelines were too narrow.
Riley has contacted all the major epilepsy organizations to
advertise the scholarship and, as a practical matter, he says, "If
you create a scholarship with a large enough endowment, the
university can't ignore it and will work to recruit students."
That gets to the crux of a common issue when endowing a
scholarship. The university wants guidelines to be as general as
possible, while the giver often has very specific criteria. David
Lieb, associate vice-president for development at Penn State
University, says sometimes the negotiations start with, "I want my
scholarship to be for kids who came from my high school, who have
one green and one blue eye and who played football." Lieb says
contributors should prepare for some give-and-take with the school.
For example, you may want your scholarship to go to a student from
Johnstown, Pa. "That's reasonable, but we might suggest that be a
first preference, followed by perhaps a student from southwestern
But universities recognize that the more that donors can
identify with a recipient, the more they are likely to give.
"People who have given us hundreds of thousands of dollars write to
thank us after they've developed personal relationships with
students," Lieb says.
Riley is looking forward to that. "We're excited about the
opportunity to give a little bit back and keep in touch with young
people who have epilepsy."
For an ongoing scholarship, you'll need at least $50,000.
However, many universities now require $100,000 or more. Generally,
5% of that amount will be awarded annually. There are two main
avenues to establish a scholarship fund:
Contact a university's development department.
It will provide you with the paperwork you need and guide you to
others who need to be involved. For example, if your gift is meant
to benefit a physics major, you may work with the physics
Use a community foundation.
These groups will often manage scholarships for students from a
certain geographic area, or students with certain health issues.
Find one using a tool at
. Be sure to select a community foundation with experience picking
scholarship winners and managing an endowment.
If you rally friends and co-workers to endow a scholarship, you
might not be able to name it -- that's one restriction some
institutions impose on multiple-donor scholarships.