How to Start a Memorial Scholarship for a Loved One


Cake values integrity and transparency. We follow a strict editorial process to provide you with the best content possible. We also may earn commission from purchases made through affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases. Learn more in our affiliate disclosure.

Some people leave a lasting impact on the world, even after they’re gone. If your loved one changed people’s lives for the better, you might want to honor their contributions. And a memorial scholarship is a way to continue that legacy of giving well into the future. 

Jump ahead to these sections:

Every memorial scholarship is different, and they can be created in various ways. But many of the steps for creating a memorial scholarship are always the same, and you always need to follow some basic parameters. 

Below, we will help you understand the process of starting a memorial scholarship, and we’ll walk you through each step. 

Tip: If you are the executor for a deceased loved one, it isn't just memorializing them that can sometimes cause stress. Jandling their unfinished business can be overwhelming without a way to organize your process. We have a post-loss checklist that will help you ensure that your loved one's family, estate, and other affairs are taken care of.

5 Steps for Setting Up the Scholarship

Creating a memorial scholarship in your loved one’s name is a noble and worthy cause. It’s also an ambitious task that’ll take a good deal of thinking, planning, and communicating.

But the reward at the end of your efforts will be the gratitude of college students in need, directed toward your late loved one. And that’s one of the greatest gifts you can give to someone who gave selflessly in life. 

So if you’re ready to begin, here are the steps for starting your very own memorial scholarship. 

» MORE: Honoring your loved one doesn't have to be expensive. Sign up for free savings.

1. Envision your ideal student

When you’re going through the rest of this process, it’ll help to have a clear image in mind of the student you want to help. Create a crystal-clear picture in your mind of the person you want to receive the scholarship and what qualities they possess. 

With a memorial scholarship, these qualities will likely be based on your loved one’s life and personality. For example, if your loved one dedicated his or her life to science, you might envision your ideal scholarship beneficiary as a chemistry or medical student. 

Here are some questions to help you decide what kind of student you want to lend aid to: 

  • What is their area of study?  
  • What kind of school do they attend?  
  • What year of their education are they entering?  
  • What extracurricular activities do they participate in?  
  • Do they have any other special qualities (first in their family to attend college, child of first-generation immigrants, returning student, etc.)?   

As you envision your ideal scholarship recipient, jot down your ideas. They’ll help in the next step when you’re creating the eligibility requirements and deciding on other factors. 

2. Nail down the particulars

Now that you have an idea of who you want to receive this scholarship (and why), it’s time to think about specifics. Here are the main factors you’ll need to consider:  

  • Eligibility requirements. Does a student need to live in a certain state?  Attend a certain school?  Be enrolled in a particular type of program?  Do they need to have a certain GPA?  What other eligibility requirements will you have?   
  • Distribution. How many students will receive this scholarship, and how often?  Is it a one-time award, or will you offer a renewable scholarship?  
  • Award amount and type. How much do you plan to distribute per award?  Will you distribute exclusively funds, or will you provide unique items, like computer equipment?  
  • Frequency. How often will you or the organization distribute the scholarship?  Every year?  Every two years?  Every four years?  
  • Evaluation factors. What can a student do to improve their odds of receiving this scholarship?  How important is the essay portion?  What will the essay ask the student to write about?  How important are referrals?  What other documents or information would improve a student’s chances?  
  • Administration and selection process. Someone will need to design the application, evaluate the submitted applications, make award selections, and field questions from students and parents. Will some of these tasks be up to you?  An organization?  A third party company?  Typically, you’ll hire a third-party administrator to manage applications and distribution for you. The cost of this is usually around $3,500. But you may still be involved in the selection process. 

3. Decide how to register and manage your memorial scholarship 

One of the most complicated (if not the most complicated) parts of creating a memorial scholarship is figuring out how to manage the fund. 

Whoever you designate to manage the scholarship will launch the program, as well as administer the application and disbursement process. When it comes to scholarship management, you have several options: 

Find a community foundation. One of the easiest ways to register your scholarship is with a community foundation. A community foundation is a type of public charity that generally focuses on a specific geographic area. They pool and manage funds as part of their services, including scholarship funds. 

Using a community foundation to create your memorial scholarship can be easier than other methods, but it may also limit your involvement in choosing scholarship recipients. 

You can find a community foundation near you using this search tool

Work with a school or university. You can work with a specific school to offer an academic scholarship. However, the university might have a minimum fund requirement, and it will only apply to a certain school or school system. 

Use a scholarship management service. If you want someone else to manage your memorial scholarship in most aspects, but you also want some say in how the grants are managed and disbursed, you might be interested in scholarship management service. 

For example, Charity Smith offers memorial scholarship management from start to finish, and it lets you avoid the more complex paperwork and bureaucracy. There are other scholarship management programs available online, but most require you to be a nonprofit organization. 

Keep in mind that if you’re raising funds for your scholarship, you should consult a legal or financial professional. This applies even if you use a service like Charity Smith. 

Start a nonprofit organization. With the help of a lawyer who specializes in financial law, you can create your own nonprofit corporation to manage your memorial scholarship. Your attorney will write the articles of incorporation you need to get started and help you submit a proposal to the IRS for nonprofit status. 

Even with the help of an attorney, this option will take the longest and include the most paperwork. It can also be quite costly. But starting a nonprofit has tax benefits, both for you and for any donors to the fund. 

Once you have the legal go-ahead, you’ll also need to raise funds for the scholarship and manage the ongoing administration of the program. 

4. Secure funding

A memorial scholarship can’t exist without proper funding, no matter how well thought out and well managed it is. So it’s important to think about where you’ll get the funds for your scholarship program early on. Some sources of scholarship funding include: 

  • Your own funds. 
  • Your family’s funds. 
  • An organization your loved one worked with or contributed to. 
  • Donations and memorial gifts. 
  • Fundraising events and crowdfunding.

The source of funding largely determines how you manage the scholarship’s funds. If you accept donations and funding, for example, you’ll need to set up a memorial fund at a bank. If you work with a nonprofit organization, you might ask people to send donations to that entity directly. 

When you’re thinking about and arranging the funding for your memorial scholarship, it’s a good idea to speak with a financial professional, like a tax advisor or lawyer. This will ensure you make decisions that suit your situation and don’t cause hardships later on down the road. 

5. Name and define your scholarship

 Finally, you should consider what you want to name your memorial scholarship. Of course, most memorial scholarships simply have the name of the person for whom they’re created. But you can also add information and descriptors to the title. Here are some examples: 

  • The Ann White Memorial Nurse’s Scholarship 
  • The Robert G. Berry Memorial Fund for Future Teachers 
  • The Liz Smith “Music Matters” Memorial Scholarship 

You should also write a brief description of your scholarship, in just a sentence or two. For example: 

  • The Ann White Memorial Nurse’s Scholarship provides assistance to hard-working and highly motivated nurses in the state of Washington. 
  • The Robert G. Berry Memorial Fund for Future Teachers helps our country’s next generation of educators reach their goals. 
  • The Liz Smith “Music Matters” Memorial Scholarship is a merit-based, renewable grant for graduate-level music students. 

Memorial Scholarship Ideas and Examples

For more inspiration and ideas for your memorial scholarship, take a look at the examples below. 

» MORE: Your family has 500 hours of work to do after you die. Learn how to make it easier.

Christopher Meadows Memorial Education Fund

This is a memorial scholarship created and managed using Charity Smith. The grant’s namesake, Christopher Meadows, was an EMT who was killed in an accident while responding to an emergency call. 

His memorial scholarship was established by his family using Charity Smith to help paramedic and EMT students continue Christopher’s dream. 

The Stephen Phillips Memorial Scholarship Fund

This is an example of a memorial fund with its own nonprofit corporation. Visitors to the site can apply for the grant, as well as donate to the fund. 

Stephen Phillips was a prominent member of Salem, Massachusetts, who helped many students obtain college education before his death in 1971. 

Amy Tessmer Boening Scholarship Fund

Most universities manage memorial scholarships offered by the family of alumni. Here’s an example of one such memorial scholarship offered by the University of Wisconsin. It’s funded by its namesake, Amy Tessmer Boening’s, estate. 

A Lasting Legacy

There are many things you can do in memory of a loved one. But few of them have an impact as long-lasting and far-reaching as a memorial scholarship. 

Creating a memorial scholarship might be intensive in terms of time and the thought you put into it. But at the end of your efforts, your loved one will have an amazing legacy that can continue for many years to come. 


  1. “How to Start a Memorial Scholarship Fund.” Scholarship America. April 2020.
  2. “How do I start a memorial fund?” Legacy. 22 November 2016.
  3. “Community foundation locator.” Council on Foundations.

Icons sourced from FlatIcon.