4-H scholarships benefit members and volunteers

Establishing a scholarship can be a real boost to a county 4-H program. These tips can help guide the process.

4-H members and volunteers benefit when a county council raises the funds to provide a new 4-H scholarship. The creation of such can be an interesting process that generates significant discussion amongst the council members. It is a valuable opportunity to talk about what’s important, what they want to support and what they expect of the recipient.

This discussion can be influenced by several factors including local tradition, funds available, the values of council members and the wishes of the donors.

The following questions by Michigan State University Extension are meant to help guide the committee in the process of establishing a county 4-H scholarship.

  1. Who is eligible for the scholarship—4-H members, volunteers or both? Can non-4-H folks apply?
  2. Is the scholarship for a specific event, program or experience? If so, what will happen to the scholarship if that event, program or experience no longer exists?
  3. Do participants need to apply or is the scholarship given automatically?
  4. Does the scholarship reduce the cost of the event, thus making it more affordable for all participants? Or, is the scholarship provided to an individual as an award? Or, is it provided based on financial need?
  5. Is the amount of the scholarship established or does the amount vary? If the latter, under what conditions would the amount vary?
  6. Can the scholarship fund the full event fee? Or is there an expectation that the participant contribute some amount? If the latter, is it a flat amount or a percentage of the event fee?
  7. Is there a limit on the number of times one person can receive the scholarship in a year? In his/her 4-H career?
  8. Is the recipient expected to do anything following his/her participation in the experience?
  9. What is the process to apply?
  10. How is the scholarship advertised, so that all who are eligible know of its existence and how to apply?
  11. Who serves on the selection committee?
  12. Does the money get sent to the event coordinator on behalf of the participant or is the scholarship recipient expected to pay up front and be reimbursed the scholarship amount after the event?
  13. What happens if the recipient doesn’t attend the event for which the scholarship was provided? Who covers the cancelation/no show fee?

A unique situation is presented when a generous donor contacts the 4-H Council wanting to create a scholarship for a particular event or in the name of a loved one. It is important to know that IRS guidelines require that a donor and his/her relatives comprise less than 50 percent of a scholarship selection committee. This guideline is in place to ensure that, if the funds are a donation, the donor is not in control of how the funds are expended.

Regardless of the kind of scholarship established, it is important that that there is a clear written policy to ensure that access is open to all and there is a documented process for who is eligible, how recipients are selected and how the funds are distributed. This information must be available to anyone upon request. This ensures transparency in each step of the process.

Michigan 4-H Youth Development offers numerous opportunities for young people to participate in educational events, activities and experiences. A scholarship provided by the county 4-H Council can help ensure that the opportunity is truly available to all. Contact your local MSU Extension office to find out more about what 4-H has to offer your child!

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