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Donor Resource Guide: Funding Futures - Scholarships as Agents of Social Change

The Challenge

Talented young people are a formidable force for positive social change, yet many are limited by unequal access to social and economic resources. This guide was created to illustrate how scholarship and fellowship programs can make higher education more open and inclusive to all—and how they can fuel social change.

What’s in the Report

This resource guide, created by the Ford Foundation in 2016, is intended to provide guidance for donors interested in starting or improving a scholarship or fellowship program. It focuses on scholarships and fellowships associated with degree-granting higher education institutions, and how they can catalyze social justice.

Privately-funded scholarships and fellowships can target underrepresented populations in ways public resources cannot. They can offer access (enabling attendance to an institution that would otherwise be inaccessible), facilitate completion (allowing a student to complete a post-secondary education successfully and in a timely manner), and support retention (addressing gaps or interruptions in resources for a student).

The guide outlines questions for donors and partners to consider when designing and developing programs, such as how they will define and measure success, what students need to succeed, whether relevant practices and processes are in place or could be improved, and what kind of communication and recognition the donor expects.

The report provides a range of examples of scholarships and fellowships aimed at creating social change, such as theDream.US scholarship fund for immigrant youth with DACA status, the Africa-based Higherlife Foundation which provides education for orphaned, vulnerable,and disadvantaged children, and Ford’s International Fellowships program, which provided access to higher education for students from vulnerable populations around the world in order to develop global leaders. The report includes links to further resources for donors looking to improve scholarship and fellowship design, identify and address unmet needs, increase inclusion and diversity, and integrate a social justice focus.