There are two primary sources of scholarships. There are what are known as “institutional scholarships,” which are scholarships from the college or university itself. These are often quite large and, by far and away, are the major source of free money for families above the poverty line. The other source of scholarship money is what is known as outside or private scholarships. Private scholarships come from multiple sources including foundations, philanthropists, churches, companies, and civic organizations.

When people learn about private scholarships they usually search for them at places like their local school, at website search engines like Fastweb,, Unigo, Niche, Cappex, College Greenlight, and Scholarship Points. Others turn to apps like Scholly. All of these are excellent sources that I recommend but I rarely hear students talk about their local Community Foundation. So what is your local Community Foundation and why is it such a plentiful source for scholarships? Here are some of the major things you need to know about Community Foundations:

Community Foundations are everywhere: I put the following into Google’s search engine: “Community Foundations, a place for scholarships.” I was just curious to see what would emerge. On the first page of Google, the following listings emerged: Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta; Community Foundation of Northeast Alabama; Community Foundation of Palm Beach, Martin County, FL; Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee; Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts; Community Foundation of Arizona, Louisville; Northeast Michigan; Greeley; Windsor; and South Puget Sound. In other words, whether the south, north, west, and Midwest, every region of the country has one or more.

Here is what the Community Foundation of Puget Sound says on its website to describe what it is all about:

Building for the future by supporting education for young peoples—how great is that! Each year, donors who have trusted the foundation to manage their funds provide scholarship support for high school seniors planning to pursue post-secondary educational opportunities—both academic and vocational.

Honoring guidelines set by the donors, committees comprised of high school counselors, college financial aid professionals, community volunteers, and Foundation board members review the scholarship applications and select award recipients

The Community Foundation of Puget Sound asks and eloquently answers the question, “What is a Community Foundation?” Here is what it says:

Foundations Play a Nationwide Role in Public Philanthropy

Community foundations are the fastest-growing sector of philanthropy in the United States. There are currently about 700 Community Foundations across the country with combined assets of over $31 billion. Community Foundations are a popular choice for donors because of the services we provide connecting donor interests with community needs.

Community Foundations can be a very attractive place for philanthropists to channel their money because they are local and they are designed to improve the local community.

There is often an opportunity to start your own scholarship fund by donating cash, stocks, real estate, and other assets. This can be very attractive to philanthropists who are often entrepreneurial.

Community Foundations appeal to people with interests other than education. They are also often used to invest locally in the arts and in economic development, and it is often these other interests that attract donors. But then they learn about the scholarship needs of the community and interest is elicited and contributions are made.

There are often tax advantages in giving to your Community Foundation. Furthermore, they often have members who can provide services like estate planning that allow a philanthropist to target their will to a local community that they dearly love. There are opportunities for business and individuals to participate. These are collaborative ventures that bring together thought leaders, experts, and philanthropists in one place where people collectively can improve their community.

The scholarships are almost always targeted to local residents. This in and of itself significantly increases your chances of winning a scholarship As always, read the website and the fine print carefully so that you are applying to scholarships that match your qualifications.

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