Alcoa Foundation: Grants for Conservation

OVERVIEW: Alcoa is a multinational metals corporation, one of the largest producers of aluminum in the world. It also happens to be the most generous corporation in the country relative to profit, according to one analysis. About half of its programmatic giving goes to the environment.  

IP TAKE: Alcoa gives to a mix of conservation, environmental education, recycling, and sustainability projects. Proposals channel through the local Alcoa offices. 

PROFILE: Alcoa is a massive, global metals company, but it also nabbed the recognition of giving the highest percentage of annual profits away, according to the most recent analysis by the Chronicle of Philanthropy. To be specific, it gave away 12 percent in 2013 (compared to Walmart’s stingy 1.3 percent). The company has a highly developed corporate responsibility program, and one of two programmatic themes is the environment.

To be clear, half of corporate giving is local or regional, driven by corporate branches on the ground in communities. But the other half goes specifically to two programmatic priorities—education and the environment. 

That boils down to about $10 million in giving annually, with about a third of that going to programs in the United States. Here are some recently funded efforts:

  • Environmental education, through groups like the Girl Scouts and Earthwatch Institute. 
  • “Replenish,” which is a combination of restoring forests, greening cities, and restoring and conserving landscapes and water systems.
  • Recycling programs, an appropriate outlet for the third-largest aluminum producer in the world. This has involved one partnership with the Central Park Conservancy. 
  • The rest goes to a mix of sustainable design and transportation, reducing carbon emissions, and resource use, and other efforts.

One of the best things about Alcoa’s giving is that it’s not one of those corporations that limits giving to a few high-profile projects that it can slap the company name all over (although there are a couple of those). Quite a few programs are funded at smaller levels, and many of those are community projects.

In fact, grants all go through the local offices, so grant seekers are encouraged to start out by getting in touch with the Alcoa facility closest to them to begin the discussion of a proposal (see link below).

There is also a wealth of information about what drives the program and how it measures success, through its website, annual reports, and investment portfolio.


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