Wells Fargo: Grants for Higher Education

OVERVIEW: Wells Fargo’s higher ed giving is burnished by a focus on being a leading corporate citizen. Its higher ed giving incorporates diversity promotion, support for military vets, scholarship programs, and college readiness initiatives. Specific giving priorities and the application process are determined by state and region.

IP TAKE: Well’s Fargo’s philanthropic interests spread far and wide. If you can integrate your higher ed work with Wells Fargo’s other giving priorities, so much the better.

PROFILE: Financial giant Wells Fargo strives “to be a leading corporate citizen and...create more resilient, sustainable communities,” which it does through “donations to nonprofits and schools, team member philanthropy and volunteerism, community development loans and investments, environmental initiatives, and other corporate citizenship initiatives.” Much of its giving is channeled through areas where it has a corporate presence, as indicated by this helpful map. Fortunately for most grantseekers, Wells Fargo has a presence in nearly every state in the Union.

Though Wells Fargo’s education program has a stated orientation more towards K-12, there are still many opportunities out there for higher ed grantseekers. For example, Wells Fargo also has a stated commitment to ensuring a diverse workforce. For higher ed, this has included support for scholarship programs, such as $7 million total giving in a recent year to “empower low-income, first-generation students with undergraduate and graduate degrees and increased financial capabilities” through support for scholarship funds like the Asian & Pacific Islander American Scholarship Fund (APIASF), the Hispanic Scholarship Fund, the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, and Scholarship America. The company’s diversity objectives also include partnerships with professional organizations like the National Association of Black Accountants, the Association of Latino Professionals for America, and Women in Technology International. In addition, it has worked to increase diversity in its supply chain, including by providing scholarships “for diverse suppliers to attend executive education training and development programs at institutions such as the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College and the Kellogg School of Business at Northwestern University.”

In the case of Scholarship America, Wells Fargo has also shown a commitment to military veterans specifically. Through the Wells Fargo Veterans Scholarship Program and the Wells Fargo Veterans Emergency Grant Program, the banking company seeks “to help veterans, veterans with disabilities, and spouses of disabled veterans obtain education or training necessary to successfully integrate back into civilian life.” They have also announced a “plan to launch a scholarship and emergency grant fund for students with disabilities.”

Wells Fargo is also one of the backers behind Achieving the Dream. Started by the Lumina Foundation and several other partners, ATD is the country's largest nonprofit focused on community colleges. It works to close achievement gaps and push evidence-based approaches to higher education with the goal of helping community college students realize their educational and career dreams regardless of socioeconomic status.

Even before students get to college, Wells Fargo has a vested interest in ensuring that they are well prepared to manage their money responsibly. To that end, its Get College Ready website seeks to “better educate and engage students, parents, families, and high school counselors on best practices for planning and preparing for college.” Along similar lines, Wells Fargo also started Go College! Now, which it describes as “a national education initiative focused on increasing college access for rst generation and low-income students.”

Wells Fargo hubs often also engage in support for Human Resources, Arts and Culture, Civic Engagement, and the Environment, so if your plan integrates into one of these other topic areas, so much the better. For example, a recent $75,000 grant to the Trust for Public Land in Bozeman, Montana, includes not only support for creation of a local nature sanctuary at the “future Story Mill Community Park,” but also “outreach and education with local college students and community members as part of the park's interpretation program.” In a more direct connection to universities themselves, in a recent year Wells Fargo also launched the “Cleantech Innovation Incubator,” a $10 million “environmental grant for clean technology startups” that it started under the auspices of “its 2020 Environmental Commitment to provide $100 million to environmentally-focused nonprofits and universities by 2020,” which included partner universities such as MIT, Portland State University, Rice, U.C. Berkeley, University of North Carolina, and the University of Texas.

On a more modest level, Wells Fargo also has an employee matching gifts program in which it will "match individual team members’ financial contributions to eligible schools and educational foundations dollar-for-dollar, up to $5,000 per person, per calendar year."

Just as giving priorities are determined by state and region, so too is the application process. Most are executed online, but some states require a paper proposal that you bring to your nearest Wells Fargo location. Each state, and sometimes each region within, has its own program officers. They also answer FAQ’s, dispense contact information, and share application deadlines.

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