Best Buy Foundation: Grants for College Readiness

OVERVIEW: The Best Buy Foundation is focused on 21st century, technology-based learning for teenagers. 

IP TAKE: The Best Buy Foundation gives its grants to both national and community-centric organizations that provide technology skills to teens, placing specific emphasis on college and career readiness for underserved populations. An important 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 tech skills. What distinguishes this funder more is its narrow student age-group focus, which is limited to teens aged 13 to 18.

The Best Buy Foundation defines “21st-century skills” as “innovative skills such as critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity” that rigorously utilize technology. This obviously lends itself to STEM education, but this funder sees things more holistically, with STEM education as a means to a well-rounded education, and to better position students for college and career.

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 if you're not seeking support for work in these locations, be sure the ones you do include 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 service to 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—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.”

The foundation looks for those that “transform underserved teens from consumers to creators.” It provides a healthy list of examples, but also makes clear that these examples are just a starting point. They include program activities such as computer programming, digital imaging (photography, graphic design, filmmaking), music production, robotics, gaming and mobile app development, computer maintenance and repair, maker fairs/hackathons, and website design.

So long as your college readiness program engages 13 to 18-year-olds in technology-based skills learning, you're well positioned for a grant. Recent grantees explicitly engaged in college readiness work include BestPrep in Brooklyn Park, MN ($5,000) and Collegiate Pathways in Oviedo, FL ($10,000).

    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. 

    CONTACT:

    Best Buy Community Relations: bestbuygrant@easymatch.com or 866-625-4350

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