Best Buy Foundation: Grants for K-12 Education

OVERVIEW: The Best Buy Foundation is focused on 21st century, technology-based learning for teenagers. 

IP TAKE: The Best Buy Foundation gives its grants to both national and community-centric organizations providing technology skills to teens. The foundation recognizes many ways to provide these skills, including arts-related and multi-disciplinary approaches, but within the K-12 population, the foundation's sole focus is ages 13-18. Another key caveat: Make sure your organization and program work is within 50 miles of a Best Buy location.

PROFILE: The Best Buy Foundation is the philanthropic arm of the consumer electronics big box store, so it’s no surprise that the foundation focuses on tech skills. What distinguishes this funder more is its narrow student age-group focus, which is limited to teens aged 13 to 18.

The Best Buy Foundation defines “21st-century skills” as “innovative skills such as critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity” that rigorously utilize technology. This obviously lends itself to STEM education, but this funder sees things more holistically, with STEM education as a means to a well-rounded education—and a way for students to be well-positioned for college and career.

Funding flows through two grant programs. National Grants provide awards typically in the $100,000 - $200,000 range to organizations whose work spans multiple cities. The foundation “prefers” those cities to include Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Los Angeles, Jersey City/NYC, Miami, Minneapolis/St. Paul, San Antonio, San Francisco/Bay area, Seattle and Washington D.C., because those are the locations of the foundation’s Teen Tech Centers. But even when you don’t include some of these locations, be sure the ones you do include are within 50 miles of a Best Buy location. Eligible organizations are 501(c)(3)s with established out-of-school time programming, or programming with a “proven track record” serving teenagers. Funds are only for program support, not general operating costs.

Community Grants go to nonprofits working locally and regionally. Amounts are much smaller, averaging $5,000, with a maximum of $10,000. Eligible organizations must be public or nonprofit community-based. (The foundation cites community centers, schools, and libraries as examples.) But here too an organization and its program work must occur within 50 miles of a Best Buy location. Likewise, funds are only for program support, not general operating costs.

Though the scopes of geography and dollar amounts are different between the two granting programs, the focus of the giving is the same. Under the credo that “access to technology creates access to opportunity,” the Best Buy Foundation provides underserved student populations with “hands-on access” to technology education and tools that set them up for success—in high school, as a gateway to and through college, and professionally. In terms of eventual careers, the foundation has a vision of inspiring and preparing “a new generation of engineers, entrepreneurs, teachers, designers, and dreamers.”

What types of programs are funded? The foundation looks for those that “transform underserved teens from consumers to creators.” It provides a healthy list of examples, but also makes clear that these examples are just a starting point. They include program activities such as computer programming, digital imaging (photography, graphic design, filmmaking), music production, robotics, gaming and mobile app development, computer maintenance and repair, maker fairs/hackathons, and website design.

After-School All Stars is a recent recipient of $125,000 through the foundation's National Grant Program. Recent Community Grant recipients include many middle schools, high schools, school districts, and community nonprofits, such as:

    Best Buy Foundation grant opportunities are open to all who wish to apply. National Grant applications are due early October. Community Grant applications are due early July. If you happen to be a Twin Cities-based organization, then a special pot called the Twin Cities Fund gives you the opportunity to apply four times per year.


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