“Consider what you’d like to accomplish with your scholarship,” says Nesmith. Whether you want to make an impact for students in a chosen field, assist faculty or fund research programs, it helps to know your goals ahead of time. If you prefer that the university determine the best use for your scholarship, let the development officer guide you, she adds. “Our goal is to match the donor’s desires with institutional needs.”
Donors with a specific objective in mind can have a say in a variety of criteria, according to Chris Pizzinat, deputy director of the Office of Development at the University of California, Santa Barbara. “The most obvious criteria is need,” he says. “That’s usually the primary component for most people, but there are some donors where need is not the primary motivator. For them, it’s merit,” he adds. In that case, donors can design a scholarship for a particular major and set a minimum GPA.
Although donors have a great deal of discretion in the criteria of the scholarship, they can’t name particular students to receive the scholarship. “That’s not philanthropy,” Pizzinat says. “That’s just saying, ‘I want this person to have the money.’ There is a bit of a firewall between the donor and the recipient.” Pizzinat adds that once students are selected by the university, the donor can meet with them, which is one of the benefits of endowing a scholarship.
Another limitation in California is a state law that stipulates that university scholarships can’t discriminate on the basis of ethnicity or gender, says Pizzinat. “You can’t create a scholarship for girls in engineering, for example.” However, there are ways to direct the scholarship to a specific area, if the donor is so inclined. Since men outnumber women in engineering, the scholarship can be earmarked for “underrepresented students in engineering, with a preference toward girls,” Pizzinat explains. “You have some wiggle room.”