Best Buy Foundation: Grants for Music

OVERVIEW: The Best Buy Foundation prioritizes 21st century learning for teenagers, including a commitment to hands-on arts engagement.

IP TAKE: The Best Buy Foundation funds grants to both national and community-centric organizations with the intention to provide technology skills to teens. The foundation refreshingly recognizes many ways to provide these skills, including an interest in music production. However, support is only provided to organizations and program work 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 is unsurprising that the foundation prioritizes technology and “21st-century skills.” Funding is limited to teens 13 – 18, and Best Buy’s music funding supports building tech skills with an emphasis on arts production.

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 modern-day music production. And while grantseekers 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 the work with rigorous hands-on experiences for teenagers.

Funding flows through two grant programs. National Grants funds 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 if an application does not include some of these locations, be sure the ones that are included are within 50 miles of a Best Buy location. Eligible organizations are 501(c)(3)s 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 community grant size is $5,000, with a maximum amount of $10,000. Eligible organizations must be a public or nonprofit community-based organization. (The foundation cites 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 differ between the two granting programs, the giving focus is the same. In the belief that “access to technology creates access to opportunity,” the Best Buy Foundation seeks to provide underserved student populations with “hands-on access” to technology education and tools that set them up for future success. The foundation envisions inspiring and preparing “a new generation of engineers, entrepreneurs, teachers, designers, and dreamers” and looks for programs that “transform underserved teens from consumers to creators.” Music/audio production is explicitly on the list, though the foundation states that the list is also just a starting point for ideas.

A past National Grant recipient with a music focus is the Grammy Foundation, which was awarded $200,000. Past Community Grant recipients who engage deeply in music programming include: $10,000 to Grace in Action (Detroit, MI); $7,500 to Carolina Studios (Charleston, SC); $7,500 to the Joy of Music Youth Music School (Knoxville, TN); $5,000 to Vocalessence (Minneapolis, MN); $3,000 to CHORDS Enrichment Youth Program (San Bernadino, CA); $2,000 to Intercultural L.A. Samba Kids (Long Beach, CA).

All grant opportunities are open to all who wish to apply. National Grant applications are due early October. Community Grant applications are due early July. For Twin Cities-based organizations, Best Buy has a special program called the Twin Cities Fund that offers the opportunity to apply four times per year.

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