How to Start a Memorial Scholarship Fund in Memory of Someone in 2022

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Starting a memorial scholarship fund in memory of someone is a wonderful way to honor a loved one. You can create a memorial scholarship on your own or with some help in 6 simple steps.

  1. Clarify the scholarship goal
  2. Choose who you want to help
  3. Determine the selection criteria
  4. Establish the memorial fund
  5. Create and promote the scholarship
  6. Award the scholarship

What is a memorial scholarship?

Memorial scholarship funds are tax-deductible grants that are given to students to help pay for direction educational costs, which include tuition, fees, and more. The memorial scholarship recipient must be selected on an objective and nondiscriminatory basis.

👋 Before getting started: If you want someone to walk you through creating a memorial scholarship, you can use a scholarship management service. If you have specific questions, check out the FAQ section. Finally, you can learn how to create any scholarship here.

1. Clarify the scholarship goal

I don’t think of all the misery, but of all the beauty that remains. – Anne Frank

It’s difficult to lose a friend, family member, or mentor. There is no easy way to deal with grief and loss, but a memorial scholarship can help continue the positive legacy of your loved one.

When I lost my mom to suicide in 2017, I wanted to help inspire more awareness about the millions of people suffering from mental health issues. I created the Elevate Mental Awareness Memorial Scholarship in her honor, and it’s been a rewarding way to keep her memory alive.

In awarding the scholarship to 3 winners, I’ve learned that a memorial fund can help:

  1. Continue spreading the values, qualities, and ideas of the person you lost
  2. Transform loss into a courageous act of helping others
  3. Help you find more meaning as you navigate the grieving process
  4. Allow friends, family, and others to contribute to carrying this person’s legacy forward

Once you’ve decided to create a scholarship, you need to figure out who you want to help.

2. Choose who you want to help

The most important part of a scholarship program is to decide who you want to help. With a memorial scholarship, you want to think about the person you lost. What qualities did they have? What did they care about? What did they teach you? These questions will help you figure out how to make a meaningful and personalized scholarship.

For example, if you want to memorialize a software developer who believed in the power of a college education to help people out of poverty, you could create a scholarship for low-income undergraduate students studying computer science.

I’ve seen people create memorial scholarships for a wide variety of causes:

  1. Haitian students studying civil engineering
  2. Undergraduate students interested in the arts
  3. First-generation students pursuing a STEAM degree
  4. People looking to attend a trade school
  5. Black students who want to attend HBCUs

Ultimately, there is no right answer to who the scholarship is for. The most important thing is that you choose a cause or group of people that honors your loved one’s memory.

3. Determine the selection criteria

Once you figure out the focus of your scholarship, you need to think about the eligibility criteria before setting it up. You don’t need to all of the specific criteria before starting the scholarship creation process, but it’s helpful to think through the following.

  • Name: What do you want to call the scholarship? It’s common to use the person’s name in the title, like the Jacques Borges Memorial Scholarship. I went with the Elevate Mental Health Awareness Scholarship, and I wrote about my mom in the scholarship’s origin story.
  • Targeting Criteria: Who can apply to the scholarship? You can use targeting criteria like race, gender, school, desired profession, major, GPA, economic background, when someone immigrated, and so on.
  • Educational Level: What ages and educational levels are eligible to apply? Is it open to high school, undergraduate, graduate, or non-students?
  • Award Amount: How much do you want to give and how often? It’s common to award memorial scholarships annually. For example, I give between $500-1000 every year. Keep in mind that you can increase your scholarship amount when you raise money from friends and family members.
  • Submission Requirements: Do you want applicants to submit an essay or video to learn more about them? If so, what do you want to know? For my mental health scholarship, I ask applicants to write an essay about how their experience with mental health influenced their beliefs, relationships, and career aspirations?

4. establish the memorial fund

You’re now ready to begin the scholarship creation process. You have three options for creating the scholarship fund:

Start a nonprofit organization. Setting up a nonprofit is costly and complicated. For most people, it’s not worth the hassle.

Work with a high school or university. You can work directly with a school to set up a scholarship at someone’s alma mater. For many schools, this is not possible and can take a long time to set up.

Use a scholarship management service. Using a scholarship management service is the best route for most people. A scholarship management organization can help you set up a memorial scholarship in just a few days at no cost to you. The team can also answer all of your questions so that the process is not overwhelming during your time of grief.

While there are many scholarship management services, the easiest and best platform is Bold.org. Bold is a nonprofit organization built for everyday people who want to create memorial scholarships without worrying about all of the logistical details.

The best part about Bold is that they walk you through every step of the process. They help you write the story of your scholarship, create a webpage for you, allow you to accept donations from friends and family members, and help you find and review applicants.

You can sign up in two minutes here.

5. Create and promote the scholarship

Bold.org is easy to use, but below are the basic steps to get started.

  1. Create a donor profile. Once you get to the site, click “Create a scholarship.” You answer a few basic questions and verify your email.
  2. Submit a scholarship proposal. Answer a few questions that describe the memorial scholarship you want to create. You will get to talk with a real person to refine the details later.
  3. Talk with a Bold.org team member. The Bold team will reach out to discuss your memorial scholarship idea. You will have the chance to get all of your questions answered.
  4. Fund your scholarship. Once you talk with the Bold team, they will prepare a scholarship for you. You will have the chance to review it, and it will start accepting applicants once you fund it.

6. award the scholarship

What we once enjoyed and deeply loved we can never lose, For all that we love deeply becomes a part of us. – Helen Keller

Once your application deadline comes, you will review applications and choose a winner. This is your chance to find a deserving student who embodies the values of the loved one whose memory you have honored with the scholarship. When you find a great student, the Bold.org team will then contact the winner and ensure that they receive the scholarship funds.

Closing Thoughts

Memorial scholarships are one of the most helpful ways to begin navigating the grieving process and to ensure that the legacy of the person you lost is continued.

It’s incredibly rewarding to give funds to deserving students who meet the criteria that you’ve set forth. It’s also a great way to engage friends, family, and the community in finding ways to support you and them through the process of loss.

While you can go many routes in creating a memorial scholarship, working with Bold.org is the easiest way to get your scholarship set up with minimal time and effort.

If you want ideas on what other people have done, browse the full list of scholarships on Bold and type “memorial” in the search bar. You’ll see a number of memorial scholarship funds.

Frequently Asked Questions About How To Start Memorial Scholarship

What is a memorial scholarship fund?

A memorial scholarship fund is a grant that is designed to honor and cement the legacy of a loved one who has passed. You can create a memorial scholarship for students who share the values of the loved one, who are pursuing a similar life path, or who represent the types of people that the person you’re memorializing wanted to help.

How much does it cost to start a scholarship fund?

You can start a scholarship fund for as little as $500, but the requirements vary by organization. Endowed scholarships typically require $20,000+ to start a scholarship program, whereas one-time scholarships can be set up for much smaller amounts.

How do you start a memorial fund for a loved one? 

To start a memorial scholarship fund, you need to decide who you want to help and choose a scholarship management service to help you set up the fund. You can then fund the scholarship, accept qualified applicants, and award the scholarship to a student who fits the criteria to help pay for their educational costs.

How do you write a memorial scholarship?

It’s difficult to find the right words for a scholarship that honors the memory of a loved one. The best place to start is to write about the highlights of your loved one’s life and what they cared about. You can then name the scholarship after your loved one and orient it toward students who match the person’s interests.

How does a memorial scholarship fund work?

Memorial scholarship funds are tax-deductible grants that are given to students to help pay for direction educational costs, which include tuition, fees, and more. The memorial scholarship recipient must be selected on an objective and nondiscriminatory basis.

Is a scholarship fund tax-deductible?

While not all scholarship funds are tax-deductible, you can set up a scholarship fund and receive a tax break if the award helps an eligible class of students, pays for direct educational costs, and is awarded on an objective and nondiscriminatory basis.

Can anyone start a scholarship? 

Yes! Every day people can set up scholarships for students to pay for qualified educational expenses, and you don’t need to start a nonprofit to do it. You simply need to figure out who you want to help, choose scholarship eligibility criteria, and award the grant to a student who meets the criteria and is attending a qualified educational program.

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