Target: Grants for Early Childhood Education


OVERVIEW: Retail giant Target has a long history of giving. Each year the Minneapolis-based corporation doles out 5 percent of its pretax profits to nonprofits and charities, and the company distributes grants in several ways. Part of the Target’s giving is routed through the Target Foundation, which exclusively supports Twin-Cities-based initiatives and organizations working in the arts and social services. On a broader scale, the company itself provides direct financial support to service providers and teachers for field trips. The company has recently shifted gears and now supports ECE and K-12 through health-oriented "wellness grants."

IP TAKE: Target's generosity is not matched by most corporations of its size, and grant opportunities are numerous but competitive. Grantseekers should keep in mind the foundation's community-based giving philosophy and its new strategic focus.     

PROFILE: One of the United States' largest retail chains, Target embraces a corporate philosophy rooted in "being a good neighbor," and therefore views "local giving" as a key means by which to "connect with the communities where we do business."

Nationally, Target (the company) is also a major player in early education funding, having recently topped $1 billion in overall education giving.

Two weeks after announcing that achievement, Target announced a new focus that would drive its giving: Youth Wellness. To that end, Target’s first call for proposals came via its Youth Programming Wellness Grant that focused on healthy eating and active living.

So what does this mean for the early childhood education sector? Target will still be "support[ing] education, but through a wellness lens," according to Laysha Ward, the company's chief corporate social responsibility officer. Additionally, Ward stated, this will include a "focus on youth, both in school and out, and [will] leverage current programs... along with new solutions."

Both schools and 501(c)(3) organizations are eligible for Youth Wellness funding. So far, Target’s focus is oriented toward underserved communities (which Target defines as those where 75 percent or more of its students receive free or reduced-price lunch).

This new focus on youth wellness and early childhood education as a potential means of youth wellness, also marks a change in the size of Target's giving. In its latest round, potential grant sizes ranged from $10,000 to $1 million each—far more than the general dollar range of previous education grants.

Other potential avenues for ECE funding also exist. The company’s Take Charge of Education program, for example, enables Target REDCard holders to "designate 1 percent of their REDcard purchases to a K-12 school of their choice to fund whatever the school needs most."

Furthermore, field trip grants — which award up to $700 — are open to educators in all 50 states. Field trip grant applications (which are highly competitive) are accepted each year from August through September, and the field trip itself "must take place between January and the end of the school year." A database of recent field trip recipients is searchable here by state and city.  

Target's early literacy grants are also popular, and are directed at "nonprofit organizations and schools to help them make a bigger impact on literacy and student achievement." In addition to its membership in the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading and large-scale grants for select partners, Target also partnered with public school districts to support literacy pilot programs for both new initiatives and facilities improvement, as well as the United through Reading program, "which helps keep military families connected by having deployed parents read aloud to their children on DVD." It is currently unclear which (if any) of these partnerships will continue in light of Target's new focus on wellness.

Target's giving is not limited to U.S.-based education. Other "areas of commitment" include sustainability and safety and preparedness (which includes emergency disaster relief), and community and safety, which includes grants to "public safety agencies and programs to prevent crime, train and educate law enforcement and support youth programs."

Separately, Target's International Giving Program funds NGOs "supporting disaster relief and education programs for children and youth," though on a much smaller scale than its domestic efforts.

Each year, Target is swamped with grant applications, which are spread over a sprawling geographic footprint. An applicant is eligible so long as it is a "charitable organization, an accredited school, or a public agency" and located within 100 miles of a Target store, so competition may be stiff. Applications are only accepted online.

In the Twin Cities, Target is also a major funder in the education space. Grants are made through the Target Foundation, a longtime philanthropic heavyweight in the region, and focus on the programs of Arts and Social Services, both of which provide support for general operating expenses.

Arts grants are provided to organizations "that provide accessible and affordable arts and cultural experiences to the Twin Cities community," and arts education programs fall into this category. The application process runs from January 1 to February 1; pre-registration with the Minnesota Cultural Data Project is required.  

Social services grants support "programs and organizations that directly provide food and shelter to the Twin Cities community or local at-risk families." This program also features a one-month application process, from April 1 to May 1 each year.


  • Search for staff contact info and bios in PeopleFinder (paid subscribers only.)