UPS Foundation: Grants for Higher Education


OVERVIEW: The philanthropic arm of UPS has a global presence consisting of four key areas of philanthropic focus: Diversity & Inclusion, Employee Volunteerism, Community Safety, and Environmental Sustainability. It supports higher education through direct grants to higher ed institutions, scholarship organizations, and nonprofits, and on a smaller scale through scholarships for the children of its employees.

IP TAKE: The downside: UPS Foundation doesn’t accept unsolicited proposals. But don’t be too quick to count this funder out - it cares about expanding access to higher education, and if you engage a UPS employee as a volunteer, you're eligible to be nominated for foundation funding.

PROFILE: The UPS Foundation is now more than six decades in, and still going strong. Established in 1951 by UPS founder Jim Casey, the foundation still retains it’s original “mission to help build stronger and more resilient communities around the world.” For UPS, “giving means more than writing a check” and includes a heavy emphasis on employee volunteerism as well as providing “ logistics expertise, transportation assets and charitable donations.” In total, the foundation boasts worldwide contributions of more than $100 million in a recent year.

This giving is currently focused on four key areas: Diversity & Inclusion, Employee Volunteerism, Community Safety, and Environmental Sustainability.

It is the first of these, Diversity & Inclusion, where the most direct connections to higher ed can be found. While the broad goal for this focus is on “[c]reating opportunities for under-represented communities,” this includes a sub-concentration on supporting “organizations focused on enhancing opportunities for higher education.” This includes funding in one recent year for “scholarships and fellowships to colleges, universities and higher education institutes” that included the “African Leadership Foundation, American Indian College Fund, Brigham Young University, Clark Atlanta University, Council of Independent Colleges, Hispanic Scholarship Fund, Morehouse College, Spelman College, the United Negro College Fund, Japanese American Citizens League and the Organization of Chinese Americans.”

It is worth noting here that recipient organizations need not be “top tier” universities in order to land on the UPS giving list. For example, Saint Charles Community College in Cottleville, Missouri recently received $10,000 in support from the foundation.

Another area where UPS has a presence in the higher education realm is through UPS Foundation chairs and professorships, which can be found at higher ed organizations like the University of Pennsylvania, the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, NJ, Harvard Business School, USC, and more.

UPS has also concentrated some of its giving on getting students college-ready. One such example is its support for “National Council of La Raza's Escalera program, a college and career readiness program benefitting high school juniors and seniors.”

While the foundation does not appear to maintain an online database of its grantees, it does provide a full list of each year’s award recipients in the final pages of its Annual Report.

On a more exclusive level, UPS Foundation also offers modest post-secondary scholarships for the children of its employees (whom it refers to as UPSers). In that vein, its five-decade-old International James E. Casey Scholarship Program “provide[s] merit-based scholarships to the children of UPS employees planning to attend a four-year college,” originally only in the United States but now accessible “in 72 countries across the globe” and “based on academic accomplishments, extracurricular activities, community involvement and an applicant appraisal.” According to the foundation, “more than 3,800 students have received a Casey Scholarship.”

Although UPS Foundation does not accept unsolicited proposals, it bears emphasizing here that interest in employee volunteerism mentioned earlier. In terms of large-scale funding, the foundation is explicit that it is keen to select “preeminent organizations within our focus areas” and “does not accept or respond to unsolicited grant proposals.”  If you don’t fit that bill, though, there is another important route, namely, “a recommendation made by a UPS employee who is actively volunteering” with your organization. Consequently, the foundation is explicit that “[t]he best way for your organization to be considered for to engage UPS volunteers and then ask them to log their volunteer hours in the Neighbor-to-Neighbor tracking system.” More specifically, “An organization becomes eligible for [local community grant] funding after UPSers invest 50 hours or more of community service towards its programs.”


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