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As James Martin Associates – with locations in Chicago and Boulder – celebrated 40 years of business in 2017, owner James Martin wondered if there was a way to thank his employees differently than the company had done in the past.

So, two years ago, the company opted to start a scholarship for employees’ children, helping them offset the cost of college tuition. Martin says starting this scholarship has already become a staple at his business, and it’s helped improve his company culture.

“All of the sudden, you’re seeing all the outstanding young people that you had no idea are part of what I’ll call the extended company family,” Martin says.

Martin says there are plenty of ways to handle setting up an employee scholarship, but here’s what they did.

Establish criteria.

Applicants need to know who’s eligible, what factors will be considered in decision-making and how much money is at stake.

Martin says he told employees up front how much the scholarships will be worth and how many candidates will be selected. Communicate the criteria in English and Spanish if need be, or clarify the requirements in any other language that might be necessary for your employees.

James Martin Associates also aimed to add some level of prestige to the scholarship by offering a big presentation check, taking a picture and sending a press release out with the photo to local media companies and the student’s high school.

Take precautionary steps.

Martin says that anybody establishing a scholarship, whether it’s internal or external, should make sure they research how it would affect their taxes.

Martin also says setting up a committee – even if it’s just two or three extra employees – to help make the final decision could eliminate the possibility of bias. He says getting letters of recommendation to help factor into the decision-making process helps keep it objective as well.

Martin recommends taking employees through the process and show how exceptional the other candidates were, rather than communicate why their son or daughter didn’t win.

Visit bit.ly/martinscholarships for the full version of this article with more details and tips from Martin.