Ecolab Foundation: Grants for Early Childhood Education

OVERVIEW: Ecolab Foundation, the philanthropic arm of its corporate namesake, gives to a broad swath of programs and interests, including education, community development, the environment, and arts and culture.

IP TAKE: Ecolab Foundation has a firm commitment to education—with early childhood education as a major focus area—so long as the programming occurs in St. Paul, MN or another Ecolab community.

PROFILE: Ecolab Foundation was established in 1986 by its corporate namesake, a company that describes itself as a “global leader in water, hygiene and energy technologies and services.” The foundation’s overall giving recently topped $80 million in a single year, with a focus on “educational, cultural, environmental, and community development programs that are good for business and good for society.”

Ecolab Foundation’s commitment to early childhood education is part of the foundation's commitment to Youth and Education (the largest dollar-getter of the foundation’s four focus areas), with a particular emphasis on at-risk youth. Given its corporate focus, it’s no surprise that the foundation is particularly committed to STEM education and is looking to support students at the pre-K level and K-12 levels, along with a focus on college readiness - an important consideration since education programs for all ages will be applying for the same pot of money.

Much of the Ecolab Foundation's early childhood education funding flows through its Visions for Learning program, which the foundation describes as its “signature teacher classroom grant program." In a nutshell, the directive of the Visions for Learning program is straightforward: grants provide teachers with “funds to obtain additional materials to help enrich the classroom experience.” Dollar amounts range from $100 to $3,000, dependent upon the project's scope and needs, and total giving to K-12 educators was approximately $1 million in a recent year. Some early childhood education grantees include $10,000 to Think Small in St. Paul, MN, almost $3,000 to Horace Mann Preschool in Huntington, IN, and $500 to the Child Educational Center in La Canada, CA.

Visions for Learning actually supports school educators of multiple stripes—not only classroom teachers, but also paraprofessionals, administrators, and other licensed staff. So there’s room for creativity here. In fact, the foundation explicitly states that it is looking for educators who show "creativity and innovation in classroom learning by providing opportunities that will motivate and challenge students intellectually, raise student achievement, as well as increase their understanding of academic content and the connection between school and life."  Most of these funds flow to K-12 recipients, but they are also available to early childhood education.

The other opportunity for early childhood education cash flows through the foundation's Civil and Community Development pot. These amounts are larger and more flexible in terms of programmatic need.

With these opportunities in mind, grantseekers should keep in mind that their project should be based in either the St. Paul, Minnesota area (where Ecolab is headquartered) or in one of the corporation’s other regional communities located throughout the U.S.  Ecolab encourages potential grantseekers to contact them directly with any questions.  This may be advisable; grant application deadlines vary by region and type, so be sure to review the specific guidelines (available via links on this page).

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