Walmart: Grants for Higher Education


OVERVIEW: The Walmart Foundation is focused on the key areas of opportunity, sustainability and community. It does not have a specific higher ed program, but higher ed institutions may be eligible for funding through research and other initiatives related to its Opportunity program. The foundation also makes postsecondary scholarships available to children of its Associates, offers modest postsecondary funding through its community grants, and has a matching funds program for nonprofits that its employees support.

IP TAKE: Walmart, Inc. and the Walmart Foundation are focused on expanding access and creating opportunity through job training and scholarships (as compared to the Walton Family Foundation, which has made K-12 ed reform a major priority). Application deadlines vary by program.

PROFILE: A separate entity from the Walton Family Foundation, the Walmart Foundation’s mission is to “create opportunities so people can live better” and to “make a positive impact in the communities we serve.” Its reach is broad and substantial. According to its website, in one recent year, the foundation and corporation combined gave over $300 million in cash contributions as well as about $1 billion in in-kind donations across the globe.

Like the Walton Family Foundation, neither Walmart nor the Walmart Foundation has a specific program dedicated to higher education. Its three main focus areas work on “helping create economic opportunity for individuals and fostering economic growth,” “enhancing the sustainability of [its] global supply chains,” and “strengthening the resilience and cohesion of local communities and inspiring associates to give back.” The funding level and application process for its grants are determined by the scale and scope of the organization applying (at the national, state, or community level).

The area most directly associated with higher education appears to be Walmart’s Opportunity focus.  Building on the general goal described above, the Opportunity program seeks to “create opportunities for the general population, especially women, veterans and small business owners.” In recent years, Walmart gave funding that sometimes reached into the low millions per year, with major funding going to the American Association of Community Colleges’ “Job Ready, Willing and Able” initiative, a collaboration of select community colleges “with local employers to provide unemployed individuals with training and access to middle-skill jobs,” according to the Foundation Center.

Walmart is also a big supporter of higher education through postsecondary scholarships. Some of the highest-profile scholarship organizations that have received Walmart support have included the American Indian College Fund, the Asian & Pacific Islander American Scholarship Fund, the Hispanic Scholarship Fund, the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, and the United Negro College Fund. On a smaller scale, Walmart also provides individual scholarship opportunities, but these are only available to Walmart Associate employees children (eligible for up to $16,000 paid over 6 years) and dependents (eligible for up to $13,000 paid over 4 years).

Walmart has an interest in industry and manufacturing research, and higher ed organizations have earned funding here as well. Among recent highlights, the Walmart U.S. Manufacturing Innovation Fund, which “focuses on the development of domestic manufacturing with a specific goal of advancing the production or assembly of consumer products in the U.S.,” awarded a total of $4 million to seven research institutions, six of which were universities. Awards were geared toward a variety of research areas that included investigating potential cost-cutting measures, eliminating waste and increasing automation in the manufacturing sector.

For higher ed organizations whose reach extends to the state level, nonprofits (including universities) may apply for grants ranging from $25,000 to $200,000, with the average award coming in at $40,000. Applicant organizations must “serve unmet needs of low-income, underserved populations within the state or region for which they are applying.” Keep in mind that the timing and type of application awarded varies by program (review the application guidelines closely), and that you’ll be competing for support against applicants from across the nonprofit spectrum.

Lastly, through Walmart’s Community program, educational institutions from Pre-K through the university level may apply for funds ranging from $250 to $2,500 directly from a local Walmart, Sam’s Club, or Logistics. In this case, your higher ed program should “benefit communities within the service area” of the store you’re seeking support from, and should also mesh with a “core giving” area of Hunger Relief & Healthy Eating, Sustainability, Women's Economic Empowerment, or Career Opportunity.

Applications for Walmart’s giving programs must be completed online. Scholarship applications are also online and available here.


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