Cash for Kids: Target's Big Play on School Supplies

Target cares about the basics. They know that, according to the National Retail Federation, families with school-age kids spend more than $600 on back-to-school purchases, and the U.S. Department of Education has reported that, on average, teachers spend $400-$500 out of their own pockets on classroom supplies each year. While Target would like families to buy supplies at their stores, they know that not every family and every teacher can afford those costs.

That’s why Target has promised to give $25 million in supplies to nearly two million kids as the new school year approaches. The only condition is that those able to afford these school necessities must purchase select school supplies at Target stores between now and August 2, 2014. It’s a win-win deal for Target as they get to pad their profit margins and come out looking like the good guy, which they certainly are in this case for so many kids who lack those basics. If Target makes good on its promise, this will be the largest cause campaign donation that the company has ever made to any single organization. It would also serve as an important milestone on Target’s way to giving $1 billion for education by the end of 2015.

The hefty sum will go to the Kids in Need Foundation, a national network of thirty-two resource centers, or free stores, that benefit needy children by helping teachers from low-income schools to obtain school supplies and teaching aids without charge. Similar to the DonorsChoose model, the Kids in Need Foundation also provides grants, supported by the business community, to teachers who conduct innovative classroom projects with their students. The organization was found in 1995 and it counts Target, 3M and OfficeMax among its “Diamond Partners,” or corporations who have donated $1 million in product or $100,000 to $200,000 in cash.

Back to Target, their corporate responsibility portfolio as includes other forward-thinking and notable giving initiatives such as a meals campaign to bring food to families in need, school library makeovers, as well as sponsoring a new study, in partnership with America’s Promise Alliance, to reframe the so-called “dropout crisis” in the U.S. Their joint report is entitled “Don’t Call Them Dropouts” and emphasizes the importance of student voices in understanding why so many youth leave high school prior to graduation.

From the basics for families in need to the big, thorny issues plaguing public education, Target is taking aim.