Since 2001, the St. Augustine & St. Johns County Board of REALTORS® has awarded more than $70,000 in scholarships to local high school seniors to help them defray the cost of attending college. “We only have 850 members,” says association executive Victor J. Raymos. “Imagine what a large association could do.” At this point, they’ve got the process down. At the start of each school year, members of the education committee reach out to area schools, publicizing the $1,000-per-student scholarship program. “We go to see the guidance counselors at the schools. We make up flyers and posters for them to put up around the school,” says Raymos. “We encourage them to give this information to any and all senior students. Then we follow up with a few more visits before the application deadline.” To qualify, students must have a C average or better--which extends opportunities beyond top students who tend to receive multiple scholarship offers--and they must submit an essay and references. The education committee awards ten annual scholarships based on a blind selection process--including a scholarship that’s awarded each year to the child or grandchild of a REALTOR® or affiliate member.
The scholarship money can be used for any college-related expense, including books and living expenses. “You wouldn’t think $1,000 would be life changing. But it is. When we present the scholarship awards at area high schools, parents come up to us in tears. ‘You can’t imagine how much you’ve done for my son or my daughter,’ they say,” says Raymos. Funds for the program are raised through annual association events--including two popular live auctions--and donations from REALTORS® and affiliate members. The association also provides a check-box on its annual dues invoice that allows members to donate to the scholarship program when they renew. Says Raymos, “We feel very passionate about education in general and the education of our high school seniors in particular. These scholarships help them do good things for themselves and for the community. It’s just a great program.”
Every year, the Austin Board of REALTORS® Foundation awards up to 15 scholarships of $1,000 to $4,000 each to area high school students. In fact, over the past 20 years the foundation has provided more than 250 scholarships to high school seniors in Central Texas to help their families defray the cost of higher education. In 2011, the foundation sponsored a Mercedes-Benz raffle to help raise money for the scholarship program. “Proceeds from the raffle will allow the foundation to continue to provide these bright young people with scholarships, so they can pursue higher education opportunities,” says Angela Tovar Brutsche, director of marketing and communications for the Austin Board of REALTORS®. Established in 1952 by the association, the foundation promotes real estate-related research and conducts charitable projects in the community, in addition to administering the scholarship program. Says Brutsche, “Investing in our youth is an investment in our future. By helping these students through generous support, REALTORS® make Central Texas a better place to live.”
Here are some of the other associations that get behind their students and schools by providing scholarships or endowments.
- The Pickens County Board of REALTORS® in Atlanta, Georgia, sponsors a scholarship program and annual school supply drive.
- The Royal Gorge Association of REALTORS® in Canon City, Colorado, provides small scholarships to local high school students and makes donations to Senior Fun Fest each year.
- The Charleston Trident Association of REALTORS® in Charleston, South Carolina, financially supports the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce’s Education Foundation and funds the endowment of a chair at the Carter Real Estate Center at the College of Charleston.
Tips and ideas for your next fundraiser.
National School Foundation Association2
The NSFA provides information on how to start a foundation to support public schools in your area.
The Council on Foundations3
Answers to frequently asked questions about starting a foundation.
Information on how to start a foundation, including free webinars, tutorials, and other tools.
The Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University5
To start a nonprofit or foundation you need to apply for 501(c)(3) federal-tax exemption. This site provides useful links to help with that process.
See related article in Issues in Public Education, “How Schools Are Funded.”