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Empowering the Dream of Education

It’s that time of year again. Students are preparing to head off to school—many attending college for the first time.

Higher education is a big investment, often made more accessible through the generosity of others in the form of a scholarship.

If you’ve ever worked with clients to help them start a scholarship before, you know that it can be an exciting and rewarding experience—and for good reason. Scholarships can provide life-changing financial aid to students, empowering them to pursue their dreams. But, independently managing a scholarship can be a complex and administratively burdensome process. That’s where The Columbus Foundation comes in!

The Foundation helps manage more than 300 scholarships in partnership with individuals, corporations, clubs, and their professional advisors—helping them turn a student’s dream into a reality.

So, how does a Scholarship Fund work?

A Scholarship Fund is a personalized fund your clients can create to help students advance their education. Your clients work with our scholarships team to determine the scholarship’s purpose and to establish guidelines that reflect their values and goals, including eligibility criteria and award amount. Meanwhile, we work with your clients to offer highly-specialized, client-focused service, while managing the application process and administrative tasks, and ensuring compliance with IRS guidelines. We also ensure that awards are disbursed on time and in accordance with the process your clients identify.

Why establish a Scholarship Fund?

Scholarships can be created to carry on someone’s legacy, to honor the memory of a loved one, or to “pay back” support by paying it forward—empowering the next generation with opportunities. Creating a Scholarship Fund at the Foundation helps accomplish these goals while shifting the administrative challenges of your client’s fund to us.

We handle everything from keeping track of gifts and awards to contacting recipients and their schools, all for a competitive administrative fee. Each year, our scholarships team coordinates the scholarship application, recipient selection, and payment process in its entirety.

From left to right: Easton Community Foundation Scholarship recipient Cierra meeting fund representatives at a scholarship event; Donor Geri Ferguson meeting scholarship recipient Logann, who received a scholarship from the Long-Twyford Family Scholarship, which Geri created to honor her family. Tony Hutchins shaking the hand of the Gideon Development – King-Lincoln District Scholarship recipient Miles after making a surprise announcement that Miles would be receiving an additional scholarship award.

Who can scholarships support?

Your client’s fund is established according to their values and goals—from the eligibility requirements to the award purpose—they create the criteria and guidelines. In designing the scholarship, your client will have the opportunity to decide if they wish to support students pursuing an associate’s degree, bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, or post-graduate degree. Scholarships can also be designed to support students attending high school, career and technical programs, or certification programs. Scholarship Funds can support students matriculating to or graduating from specific educational institutions—and can even specify a course of study. Scholarships can be need-based, merit-based, or some combination thereof, and can also be designed to benefit students based on certain demographics.

What types of assets can be used to establish a Scholarship Fund?

The Foundation can accept gifts of many types of assets, including cash, stock, real property, mutual funds, and closely held business interests. Scholarship Funds can be funded through lifetime giving or estate plans. Clients can even use an IRA charitable rollover to fund a scholarship. Your clients can add to their fund at any time.

What is the minimum to establish a Scholarship Fund?

It takes $50,000 to open a Scholarship Fund. We also require a minimum balance of $10,000 in the fund. Funds can be invested with the Vanguard Family of Funds or with any of our approved investment agents. Your client’s Scholarship Fund can be designed to pay out its balance over time or it can be structured as a permanent fund—providing support to students in perpetuity.

How “hands-on” is the scholarship process?

The Foundation is very customer service-oriented, so the level of engagement in the scholarship is determined by the client. They can be highly engaged, or as hands-off as they prefer.

The experts on our scholarships teamwork with donors on an ongoing basis to ensure that their goals are being achieved. Criteria and processes can be refined as needed. Many scholarship donors also enjoy attending our annual scholarship event, where donors and students are invited to meet one another.

Are Scholarship Funds accessible to students?

Yes! Eligible recipients will find your client’s Scholarship Fund through an easy-to-use scholarship search tool located on the Foundation’s website. Their scholarship can be part of our general online scholarship application, which allows students to fill out one application for many of our Scholarship Funds.

For more than 75 years, the Foundation has served as the vehicle through which thousands of people have expressed their own ideals and optimism through philanthropic investment in our community. Contact us if you are interested in learning more about how The Columbus Foundation can help your clients achieve their desired impact—now, and for generations to come.

About the Author

Alicia Szempruch, MPA, CAP®

In her role as the Foundation’s Scholarships Officer, Alicia Szempruch manages an extensive portfolio of Scholarship Funds, overseeing the day-to-day aspects of each unique fund. She has a passion for helping donors support students through their philanthropy.

One of Alicia’s favorite parts of her job is helping donors crystalize their goals and find students who reflect the qualities that are important to them. In a typical scholarship season, Alicia visits students at nearly two dozen area high schools to promote scholarship access.

Alicia has one dog and two cats. She resides in an old house in the Franklin Park neighborhood, which serves as a continuous source of home improvement projects.

To reach Alicia, email

About The Columbus Foundation

The Columbus Foundation serves nearly 3,000 individuals, families, and businesses that have created unique funds and planned gifts to make a difference in the lives of others through the most effective philanthropy possible. The Columbus Foundation is Your Trusted Philanthropic Advisor® and is one of the top ten largest community foundations in the country.


Aug 18, 2021



Alicia Szempruch, MPA, CAP®, is the Associate Director for Scholarships at The Columbus Foundation.​