Educate yourself on scholarship programs

Wednesday, December 22, 2004 at 12:00am

Outsourcing labor when it comes to handling a company's scholarship program may provide more benefits than just work off your hands.

A third party can lend impartiality to the recipient selection process and a level of scholarship expertise rare among non-academic organizations.

The first step normally is to determine a philosophy for giving, said Scholarship Program Administrators (SPA) Inc. President and COO Becky Sharpe.

Companies pay SPA an administrative fee to set up the program, administer applications, pick the winners and distribute the funds.

While most of their clients create scholarships as a benefit for employees or their dependents, criteria may be set to reflect the company's philosophy by tying the award to an entrepreneurial spirit, particular field of study, a degree of need or a level of achievement.

The amount that companies award can also range from $500 to thousands of dollars.

HCA Inc. has awarded more than $2.5 million to children of employees since 2000, with an average award last fiscal year of $865.

The CBRL Group Foundation, which benefits Cracker Barrel and Logan's Roadhouse, started with 25 awards for $1,000 and has increase to 35 in eight years.

"We just wanted to be able to empower our employees to be able to increase their educational opportunities," CBRL Group Foundation Director Penny Carroll said.

Outsourcing was the only feasible option for CBRL because its foundation does not have the staff to handle the program in-house, according to Carroll.

Outside agents can ease such obstacles by bearing the burden of the details.

The goal of The Community Foundation of Nashville, a not-for-profit organization founded in 1991, is to make any kind of charitable giving easy, according to Foundation President Ellen Lehman.

"It's very hard for an individual or a corporation to make a charitable gift and have it benefit a scholarship program," Lehman said. "There's a tremendous amount of work that goes into making it easy for the donor."

Like SPA, The Community Foundation administers scholarship programs from the publicity to the awarding of funds.

While their clients predominantly have been individuals and families, Lehman said they are getting more corporations that recognize it is more efficient to outsource the job.

She likens their system to a community savings account.

The Community Foundation invests the money donated for scholarships in an endowment fund and a portion goes to the donor's specified cause.

"[These are] permanent funds that make annual grants in support of deserving students," Lehman said.

Even companies that seemingly would have the resources to operate an in-house program can benefit from an independent third party.

"It's the expertise that we have because the company wants to make sure their scholarship program is run in a very professional way," SPA founder Dr. Nyles Ayers said. "If it's administered in house, there's always the suspicion that it's

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By: julies on 8/21/09 at 1:08

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