Dollar General Literacy Foundation: Grants for K-12 Education

OVERVIEW: Dollar General Literacy Foundation is the philanthropic arm of Dollar General Stores. It supports youth and adult literacy in traditional classrooms and beyond in every state where Dollar has a presence.

IP TAKE: Dollar General Literacy Foundation supports literacy as a bedrock of education. By natural extension, this includes K-12 education. The foundation gives grants in all shapes and sizes, so if your program supports K-12 literacy, read on.

PROFILE: Founded in 1993, the Dollar General Literacy Foundation supports a wide range of projects and programs to alleviate the roadblock to people’s lives and livelihoods. It boils down to this declaration: “Every individual deserves an equal opportunity to receive a basic education.”

With that in mind, the foundation aims to help "individuals of all ages receive the educational foundation they need to increase their ability to access post-secondary education opportunities and attain increased employability." This focus is an homage to the company's founder, J.L. Turner, who "functionally illiterate with only a third grade education" yet persevered even after he "dropped out of school when his father was killed in an accident." 

In that context, the Dollar General Literacy Foundation supports a number of projects aimed at K-12 students. In addition to a national literacy directory to help individuals find programs in their area (either for assistance or to volunteer) and a partnership with Discovery Education to provide digital classroom and family literacy activities, Dollar serves the K-12 population through four of its five grant programs: Youth Literacy, Summer Reading, Family Literacy, and School Library Relief. All four programs share the foundation’s goals of increasing access to basic literacy and education; using literacy to earn high school diplomas; and creating models that can be replicated around throughout the country.

For its Youth Literacy Grants, the foundation funds projects originating from schools, public libraries, and nonprofit organizations. It looks to support efforts that implement or expand literacy programs or that purchase books, technology, and other equipment and materials that programs need. In a recent year, the foundation gave nearly 800 grants to schools and organizations working in this realm.  

Dollar General Literary Foundation’s Summer Reading Grants program primarily goes to nonprofit organizations and libraries to provide summer literacy content when school is out of session. The foundation supports pre-K through 12th grade students, and looks for programs that provide for "new readers, below grade level readers. or readers with learning disabilities." In a recent year, the foundation gave to nearly 300 organizations through support that included funds to purchase books or to add a new space to a local library.

The third arena for Dollar General support of K-12 education comes by supporting an entire family through its Family Literacy Grants. Any organization seeking support in this realm must provide all of the following: Adult education, Children’s education, and Parent and Child Together Time (called PACT). The smallest of the foundation’s three approaches to literacy (and therefore K-12 education), it still funded almost 80 organizations in a recent year.

Lastly, Dollar has also established the Dollar General School Library Relief Program, which provides "grants for books, media, and equipment that support learning in a school library environment" for schools whose libraries have been affected by "major disasters."

The foundation states that in total, it has awarded more than $100 million since its inception. The range of dollar amounts has been wide, spanning from the low thousands into six figures, and the foundation's geographic reach is equally broad. It funds organizations in every state that has a Dollar General Store - nearly every state in the Union. Use their map or search engine to check on stores near your location. For more information about recent grantees, potential applicants can read the foundation's news page or download the previous year's list of grant recipients (divided by program area) on its grant programs page. 

Grant applications in all categories open up in January, with giving dispersed in either late spring or late summer, depending upon the program. Information about staff is limited, however: the foundation's leadership and staff are not listed in a dedicated page on the site, and press releases from Dollar and its grantees most often feature quotes from the corporation’s chairman and CEO or occasionally from noted literacy advocate Denine Torr, Dollar's Director of Community Initiatives.

PEOPLE:

  • Denine Torr, Director, Dollar Community Initiatives

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