Staples Knows That $2.4 Million Sure Isn't Chump Change

At the very top level, Staples Foundation is like many other corporate philanthropy foundations—it's a foundation that doesn't accept unsolicited grant proposals, and seems to only give grant organizations that are already pretty big and visible deals.

But before you give up hope and look for your K-12 education grant money elsewhere:

1) Go visit your local Staples store.

2) Ask one of the store's associates to help you find the right toner for your printer.

3) Strike up a larger conversation with that Staples associate.

Here's why you should be nice (beyond "just because"): Staples employees are responsible for giving out more than $2 million each year to local non-profits that support education and job skill training.

The program is called 2 Million & Change. The “2 Million” reflects the bottom-line amount Staples dedicates to this initiative each year; the “and change” reflects the fact that it always goes over 2 million. In fact, in 2014, $2.4 million was directed to more than 1,000 organizations across 24 countries. The vast majority of that giving was U.S.-based: 990 grants to non-profits in 47 states.

Staples employees take the program seriously; more than 9,000 of them participated in directing donations in a recent year.

Recent recipients include Erica Rae’s Kids (in support of Aurora, CO public schools), the John Andrew Mazie Foundation (a mentorship program), Read to a Child, the Flutie Foundation for its iPad program and Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries for its program to keep teenage mothers in school and well-positioned for beyond. Staples Foundation provides an interactive map that lists an array of its grant recipients from 2002-2013. It won’t give you dollar amounts, but it will give you a sense of the scope of non-profit organizations that the foundation supports, which includes individual schools (traditional public schools as well as KIPP), arts organizations, nature programs, and social service entities.

If a Staples employee (it also includes those who work in administration, rather than directly at a store) is actively engaged in volunteering with your non-profit, even better, because the rules of the 2 Million & Change initiative stipulate that their involvement makes more grant money available to your K-12 education program—upwards of $25,000.

Not bad if you originally just stopped in for a new pack of pens.