Coca-Cola: Grants for Higher Education

OVERVIEW: Coca-Cola and the Coca-Cola Foundation have philanthropic emphases in women's empowerment, environmental conservation, and healthy living through diet and exercise, as well as local community initiatives. Coca-Cola also gives away millions of scholarship dollars annually through both the Coca-Cola Foundation and the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation.

IP TAKE: Even though education is no longer Coca-Cola's exclusive philanthropic focus, institutions of higher ed around the globe continue to receive major awards. That said, earning support from this funder is among the more competitive endeavors out there.

PROFILE: The Coca-Cola Foundation was established in 1984 at the behest of Roberto Goizueta, the corporation’s then Chairman and CEO. Its initial focus was “learning inside and outside the classroom,” but in 2007, the company and foundation began to broaden their scope of giving.

According to the foundation, its current “priority areas” are economic empowerment and entrepreneurship” for women; “access to clean water, water conservation and recycling” and “active healthy living, education and youth development.” On the local and community level, the foundation also gives in areas that include “arts and culture, community and economic development programs,” and  “HIV/AIDS prevention and awareness programs in Africa and Latin America.”

The foundation puts major funding behind these efforts. According to its website, in one recent year alone, the foundation gave away nearly $100 million worldwide, and universities around the world have received awards for a wide variety of initiatives related to the foundation's three priority areas. The foundation has funded university-based programs in recycling, nutrition and exercise, biodiversity protection, reforestation and water storage, the establishment of a women’s business center, women’s leadership initiatives, and similar efforts in areas as widespread as Argentina, Azerbaijan, China, the United States, Greece, Austria, and Lebanon, among others. 

In the U.S., many Coca-Cola Foundation grants take the form of scholarships awarded directly to universities and scholarship nonprofits, particularly those working with underserved or underrepresented communities and those offering support for first-generation college attendees. A subset among the foundation’s higher education priorities also touches on international affairs. In a recent year, for example, the foundation gave $2 million to Georgetown University to establish the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service’s Faculty Chair in Global Human Development, and $50,000 to Clark Atlanta University for a U.S. State Department-sponsored  “leadership and mentoring summer program for 25 young leaders women from sub-Saharan Africa.”

These awards are on the extreme ends of the giving spectrum, as most of the foundation's grants have been in the low- to mid-six-figure range. A complete list of recent awards can be downloaded in PDF form at the bottom of the foundation's home page.

In addition to direct funding for universities, students in the United States are also eligible for scholarship support through the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation. Each year, over $3 million is awarded to students across the country. The first $3 million takes the form of 150 awards of $20,000 each, with smaller amounts going to hundreds of additional awardees. Applicants must be high school seniors and U.S. citizens with a minimum 3.0 GPA. More information about the scholarship and application process is available here.

Applying for support from the Coca-Cola Foundation is certainly competitive, and may appear like a long shot. That said, applications are accepted year-round and do not require an invitation, and there is no dollar limit to your funding request. Before you get started, be sure your organization and project qualify by completing this eligibility questionnaire.

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