Best Buy Foundation: Grants for Journalism

OVERVIEW: The Best Buy Foundation is focused on 21st Century Learning for teenagers, including a commitment to hands-on media engagement.

IP TAKE: The Best Buy Foundation gives its grants to both national and community-based non-profit organizations through a lens of providing technology skills to teens. The foundation refreshingly recognizes many ways to provide these skills, and has a recent track record in funding journalistic organizations and programs. The caveat: Make sure your organization and program work is within 50 miles of a Best Buy location.

PROFILE: The Best Buy Foundation is the philanthropic arm of the consumer electronics big box store, so it’s no surprise that the foundation focuses on “21st-century skills.” What distinguishes this funder more is its narrow student age-group focus, which is limited to teens aged 13 – 18, and an explicit emphasis on media production skills.

The Best Buy Foundation defines “21st-century skills” as “innovative skills such as critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity” that rigorously utilize technology. It’s easy to see how those four attributes can apply to today's journalism. And while you need not be an organization that solely educates or works with students, in terms of a funding partnership with this foundation, the key is to connect your work with rigorous hands-on experiences for teenagers.

Funding flows through two grant programs. National Grants provide awards typically in the $100,000 - $200,000 range to organizations whose work spans multiple cities. The foundation “prefers” those cities to include Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Los Angeles, Jersey City/NYC, Miami, Minneapolis/St. Paul, San Antonio, San Francisco/Bay area, Seattle and Washington D.C., because those are the locations of the foundation’s Teen Tech Centers. But even when you don’t include some of these locations, be sure the ones you do include are within 50 miles of a Best Buy location. Eligible are 501(c)(3) organizations with established out-of-school time programming, or programming with a “proven track record” of serving teenagers. Funds are only for program support, not general operating costs.

Community Grants go to nonprofits working locally and regionally. Amounts are much smaller; the foundation states that the average grant size here is $5,000, with a maximum amount of $10,000. Eligible organizations must be a public or nonprofit community-based organization. (The foundation gives community centers, schools, and libraries as examples.) But here too, an organization and its program work must occur within 50 miles of a Best Buy location. Likewise, funds are only for program support, not general operating costs.

Though the scopes of geography and dollar amounts are different between the two granting programs, the focus of the giving is the same. In the belief that “access to technology creates access to opportunity,” the Best Buy Foundation focuses on providing underserved student populations with “hands-on access” to technology education and tools that set them up for success—in high school, as a gateway to and through college, and for career preparation. In terms of those eventual careers, the foundation has a vision of inspiring and preparing “a new generation of engineers, entrepreneurs, teachers, designers, and dreamers.” (Another good set-up for a journalism program.)

The language working in your favor keeps on coming. The foundation looks for programs that “transform underserved teens from consumers to creators.” While journalism isn't explicitly on that list, digital photography is, as is audio production, videography, website design, and mobile app development. The foundation stresses that its list is just a starting point for ideas.

Recent National Grants to organizations engaged in journalism went to Common Sense Media ($150,000) and Youth Radio ($125,000). Recent Community Grant recipients include:

Best Buy Foundation grant opportunities are open to all who wish to apply. National Grant applications are due early October. Community Grant applications are due early July. If you happen to be a Twin Cities-based organization, then a special pot called the Twin Cities Fund gives you the opportunity to apply four times per year.

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