Both state and private schools would be able to bid for bursaries on behalf of pupils who have shown ability and excelled in disciplines ranging from music to dance, sport, languages, mathematics, science, writing and leadership.
The proposal, contained in an academic paper commissioned by the Scottish Government, is also aimed at donors of larger sums of money who would be allowed to fund particular schemes directly.
However, while additional funding in education is welcome, the plan is controversial because of concerns it could exacerbate divisions by giving support to pupils who already have an advantage through their family background.
There have also been warnings that those making larger donations should not be given any control over the projects being funded.
The paper, written by Lindsay Paterson, Professor of Education at Edinburgh University, states that the new scheme would "respond to a sense" that Scottish education is too uniform - a characteristic which he described as a strength, but also a "constraint on innovation".
On the scheme itself he states: "However important this may be to individual students and schools … the ultimate purpose is a change to Scotland's educational culture so that it would have the reputation not only of providing opportunities for everyone, but, also, once more, of fostering true individual excellence."
Michael Russell, the Education Secretary, welcomed the findings of the paper, which have been discussed with Martin Evans, chief executive of the Carnegie Foundation, and Jim McColl, who heads the engineering firm Clyde Blowers and is one of Scotland's richest men.
Mr Russell added: "While the state will always be the primary funder of education in Scotland, philanthropy could have a role to play. About much more than just money, philanthropists offer dynamism, fresh ideas and energy that could work in the interests of all Scotland's children and young people.
"It could help us reduce the attainment gap, something which this Government has prioritised along with our commitment to free education."
However, teaching unions highlighted significant concerns over the project.
Alan McKenzie, acting general secretary of the Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association, said all education should be sponsored by the state.
"This may give a warm glow to those doing the giving, but it is the sort of practice that goes back to another century," he said.
"Where it gets even more disturbing is where the individuals doing the giving want some sort of control over the money they spend."
Mr McKenzie said targeting extra funding at those who were already high achieving could also create divisions.
"It seems unfair that those who are excelling should be given even greater assistance. There is just as strong an argument that we should be supporting those who are not doing quite so well to get them up to the same level," he added.
A spokesman for the main teaching union, the Educational Institute of Scotland, said philanthropy could have a "clear beneficial impact", but should not be used as an excuse for any reductions in state funding.
"It is also essential that there is never any suggestion that gifting money to schools should buy any influence over what is taught in those schools," he said.
Ken Cunningham, general secretary of School Leaders Scotland, which represents secondary headteachers, said the selection process was vital.
"It needs to be managed carefully and equitably and the difficulty is to ensure that, when judgments are being made about who gets these bursaries, that applications from different types of schools and different types of pupils are considered fairly."