Launch an awards program for employees
When Gemperle Family Farms of Turlock, Calif., needed a creative way to give back to employees, the business turned to its local community foundation for help. What resulted is a scholarship fund expected to support up to $10,000 in tuition, books and other college costs for the children and grandchildren of team members this year.
Seven siblings own and manage Gemperle Family Farms in Turlock, Calif. From left are Mike, Steve, Susan, Anita, Rich, Heidi and Pete.
“Helping our employees send their kids to college is one of the greatest gifts of gratitude we can give to those who have helped make our company successful,” says Steve Gemperle, president of Gemperle Family Farms, an egg operation with specialties including browns, organic, cage free and omega 3. “When you change someone’s life with education, you have an impact for generations to come.”
More and more producers are requesting guidance to set up scholarships, says Marian Kaanon, president and CEO of the Stanislaus Community Foundation, which is administering the Gemperle funds.
“It’s our fastest growing segment of charitable funds we provide,” says Kaanon, who notes there are more than 700 such community foundations in the U.S. “It’s a very tangible thing to send someone to college.”
Getting Started. Agriculture is a natural fit for scholarships because many in the industry want to see the next generation return to the local community upon graduation. That’s especially true in Stanislaus County, which ranked No. 7 in the nation for ag production by market value in the 2012 Census of Agriculture.
Large farm operations are the most likely to be eligible for a community foundation-supported scholarship fund because the IRS requires a broad applicant pool and an unbiased approach to award selection, Kaanon says. Businesses must have a minimum of 200 employees.
“We have an independent selection committee for all of our funds,” she explains. “[Scholarship candidates] apply directly to the community foundation online.”
To begin the conversation, Kaanon’s staff sits down with producers and learns about their giving goals and the types of students they’d like to support.
Typical criteria include academic achievement, having a relative who is an employee of the corporation and proof of enrollment at an institution of higher education.
In the case of Gemperle Family Farms, students are only eligible if their parent or grandparent has worked at the operation for three or more continuous years. Students must attend an accredited two- or four-year college or university, have a 3.0 GPA or higher, and enroll in at least 12 units per semester.
After candidates are screened by the foundation’s independent selection committee and awards are announced, the scholarship checks are sent directly to schools’ financial aid offices upon proof of enrollment.
Other Advantages. Working with a community foundation to develop a scholarship can be advantageous for producers financially because they enjoy tax deductions and logistically because paperwork is managed by a third party.
To find a community foundation that can assist with scholarship plans in your area, visit cfstandards.org/community-foundation-locator.