OVERVIEW: The Alcoa Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the metals manufacturing and engineering company, is focused on its “commitment to sustainability.” It pursues this commitment through direct support of environmental projects as well as education (especially STEM) and workforce development initiatives. The Alcoa Foundation approaches its support of education on multiple fronts—by supporting large global organizations, investing in small community organizations, and creating partnership initiatives that fill a void.
IP TAKE: Given its corporate parent, it’s no surprise that the foundation puts STEM, environmental, and manufacturing workforce education at its forefront, but it also supports general education initiatives to fill pockets of need, particularly in communities where Alcoa has a corporate presence.
PROFILE: The Alcoa Foundation exists to apply “Alcoa’s values to sustain our communities and our world." It takes pride in citing its “sustainability” long before it was trendy to do so, and the foundation approaches that term broadly. “Sustainability” indicates support of environmental initiatives as well as education—and therefore community sustainability—in the areas where Alcoa has a corporate presence worldwide. In a recent year, the Alcoa Foundation’s global giving totaled $21.5 million, making it a significant player in the K-12 arena.
The Alcoa Foundation’s K-12 education support flows out of both of its key areas of giving. Though most K-12 funding falls under its aptly named Education division, support for environmental education comes through the foundation's Environment work. Within its Education branch, the Alcoa Foundation’s commitment to K-12 primarily focuses on STEM education and workforce development, with a "special emphasis on engaging girls, women, and other under-represented groups to pursue science and technology careers," and it also supports “general education” and “general job readiness.” In Alcoa's Environment program, key elements are Education and Environmental Literacy, which seek to "promote environmental awareness and create environmental community ambassadors among students, communities and Alcoa employees."
The foundation’s annual report and Global Impact pages provide a useful breakdown of its giving priorities. In recent years, more than 40 percent of the Education program's funding focused on STEM education, with around 15 percent going to general education. At the same time, around 40 percent of the foundation’s Environment program funding in recent years has gone towards environmental education. In a separate breakdown, the foundation notes that half of its giving is dedicated to "Signature" large-scale national and international projects, with the remaining 50 percent allocated to "community-based partners" where the corporation has a presence.
The Alcoa Foundation does support some large, national or globally operating organizations (including the Brookings Institute and the Girl Scouts of America). It also partners with national nonprofits to create some nationwide initiatives of its own, including the Manufacture Your Future, a partnership with Discovery Education to "to provide 6th-12th grade educators, administrators, school counselors and families" with STEM lesson plans and career planning information for "the next generation of manufacturing leaders and innovators." By its own accounting, in a recent year Alcoa's STEM initiatives “reached 100,000 students.”
That said, most of the Alcoa Foundation’s K-12 education support is generated at the community level in areas where it has a presence, including projects where its corporate workforce can engage in making the results happen. The good thing for would-be grantees is that Alcoa’s presence and workforce is widespread throughout the United States and beyond. Prospective grantees should note that the foundation is particularly interested in measurable results, project sustainability, diversity and the inclusion of underrepresented communities, and the development of shareable best practices. Recent projects the foundation has supported included classroom technology upgrades, STEM programs for girls, job-readiness classes, internship programs, and the education of future "environmental ambassadors."
The Alcoa’s Foundation’s funding guidelines relate details of the specific initiatives the foundation will support. Proposals must request a minimum investment of $15,000 and the foundation requires grantseekers to contact a local Alcoa facility to get started.
- Esra Ozer, President
- Carol Greco, Grants Administrator