Walmart Foundation: Grants for Disease

OVERVIEW: The Walmart Foundation granted more than a billion dollars last year, and although diseases are not one of its explicit focuses, the foundation gives millions to the cause every year through its state and local giving programs.

IP TAKE: Walmart's lack of focus makes it harder to know what the foundation is interested in. But it also means that getting a foot in the door is easier for new organizations looking for small- to medium-sized grants through the foundation's state and local giving programs.

KEY INFO: The area of diseases does obviously not fall under one of the Walmart Foundation's three focus areas: Opportunity, Sustainability, and Community. However, these focus areas primarily govern its State and Community Giving programs, and in the past the foundation has supported other organizations that fight disease, such as the American Heart Association, through its National Giving program. Furthermore, the foundation says explicitly that it will consider proposals that fall outside of its focus areas in the State and Community programs, especially if they address the "unmet needs of underserved low-income populations." The State Giving page specifically mentions access to healthcare as an example of this.

The foundation's grantmaking programs are based on scale, and are divided into National, State and Community Giving:

  • National Giving - Grants of $250,000 and above to organizations working across several states at least. Applications begin with a Letter of Inquiry, and full applications may only be submitted upon invitation.
  • State Giving - Grants of $25,000 to $200,000 (average of $40,000) to organizations working within individual states. These grants are due July through September depending on the state (i.e. in the foundations Cycle 3 or 4).
  • Community Giving - Grants of $250 to $2,500 to organizations working in communities served by a Walmart store. Applications are due at the end of the calendar year.

The foundation also operates an International Giving program, which does not accept unsolicited applications.

The foundation has given at least $27 million in disease-related grants over the past decade, with most years averaging around $3 million to $5 million. Most gifts fall in the sub-$10,000 range, with larger grants generally going to larger, well-known organizations such as the American Cancer Society or American Diabetes Association. Exempting a spree of one-time grants in 2007 — to be discussed later — nearly 60% of Walmart's grants came in below $10,000.

Another 15% were above $10,000 but below $25,000, and about 13% were between $25,000 and $50,000. A little less than 10% came in between $50,000 and $100,000, and nearly 5% were above that number (but below $1 million).

Those one-time grants in 2007 were a part of two special matching/challenge grant initiatives — the Community Matching Grants and Volunteerism Always Pays programs. Walmart only recorded these donations for 2007, but in that year alone they made up more than 60% of the foundation's total grants — ever. Because they're special initiatives, they aren't included in these numbers.

Although these programs make up a big chunk of Walmart's sub-$10,000 giving, the foundation does distribute a high number of $1,000 grants. Of the nearly 100 left over once you remove the special programs, nearly all went to non-duplicate organizations from a wide variety of subject areas, including AIDS, SIDS, diabetes, sickle cell anemia, pulmonary hypertension, muscular dystrophy, and many, many more. Because Walmart's small-bore giving is not governed by its overall focuses, it tends to award grants to a wide variety of programs.

Although Walmart is nominally focused on a dozen or so states, its disease-related grants go to an even smaller number. Nearly half of grants went to just five states — Texas, New York, Virginia, Arkansas, and Arizona. In Virginia, two-thirds of those grants went to just one organization: the American Diabetes Association, which is based in Alexandria.