Lowe's Charitable and Educational Foundation: Grants for K-12 Education

OVERVIEW:  This charitable arm of the home improvement chain focuses on public K-12 education and projects of community betterment. Most of its funding is allocated to schools and falls in the range of $2,000-$5,000, though larger grants are awarded in select cases.

IP TAKE: This foundation gives financial support that loosely parallels the realms of its profit-making stores. Lowes contributes to public school facility improvements, technology upgrades, and especially supports funding for initiatives meeting “necessities” and creating “impact.” STEM projects have also been highlighted.

PROFILE:  Lowe’s Charitable and Educational Foundation is the philanthropic offshoot of Lowe’s home improvement stores. As its corporate Chairman and CEO, Robert Niblock, states in an open letter, “Lowe's Foundation is committed to supporting projects that have the greatest impact on our communities and align with our core business—home improvement.” Lowe's is committed to education because, again in the words of Niblock, “We believe education is the cornerstone to building bright futures and stronger communities.”

Public K-12 education is a major focus the foundation, channeled through its Toolbox for Education program, established in 2006. Since its inception, the Toolbox for Education program has distributed tens of millions of dollars to thousands of schools across the country, and offers "up to $5 million to public schools and public school parent teacher groups - at as many as 1,000 different public schools per school year." 

Toolbox for Education giving is focused on “building” and “improvement” in the vein of the foundation’s corporate parent. It has stated "a preference for funding requests that have a permanent impact such as facility enhancement (both indoor and outdoor) as well as landscaping/clean up type projects," and has highlighted its work in STEM in a recent annual report. The foundation further states that "projects that encourage parent involvement and build stronger community spirit will be favored."  Lastly, the foundation has specifically stated an emphasis on efforts "providing the greatest impact," with "basic necessities taking priority."

Officially speaking, this emphasis on "basic needs" and "impact" can manifest in support between $2,000 and $100,000. More practically, a “large majority” of application requests fall between $2,000 and $5,000. The foundation defines “larger projects” as those that fall between $10,000 and $25,000. Requests higher than that are classified as “critical need projects,” which are "considered on a case-by-case basis.” The foundation is frank about these large requests, openly stating that they “will be considered, but are seldom awarded."

Like many foundations affiliated with commercial corporate companies, Lowe’s Charitable and Educational Foundation gives its support in “the communities we call home.” Fortunately for fundraisers, Lowe’s is ubiquitous across America, having made awards in 49 of 50 states in one recent year. Their store locator is a helpful tool for identifying an outlet in your general area.

    Like many foundations, Lowe’s Charitable and Education Foundation openly states what it does not fund. Several categories are worth noting here, because the foundation is unique in its lack of support for initiatives such as arts-based programs, student field trips, development of books and media projects, tickets to events, or continuing education for teachers and staff.

    On the bright side, the foundation also shares nine ideas to inspire your application: a reading garden, a vegetable garden, a physical fitness area, a school landscaping project, a school nature trail, a parent involvement center, a peer tutoring center, a playground, a rotating student art exhibit. 

    Toolbox for Education program grant applications have two cycles each year. Before applying, grantseekers would do well to review the sample application Lowe's makes available, as well as to briefly review its "Winner's Circle" list of annual award recipients and the recipients it has highlighted as particularly noteworthy.

    There are a few other Lowe’s K-12 funding opportunities worth noting, but some are location-specific. 

    If your public or charter school operates in one of these eight school districts in California, North Carolina or Oklahoma, the Jimmie Johnson Foundation (of NASCAR fame) partners with Lowe’s for additional support in these areas. Lowe’s also gives special consideration to the Lake Norman area and the North Wilkesboro area of North Carolina, where the corporation houses its two biggest customer support centers.

    Through its Hometown Grants program, rather than wait for the twice-yearly application cycles, schools here can apply for support year-round.

    The foundation also likes to provide local Lowe’s volunteers to help build and implement, through it Lowe’s Heroes program.

    In the past, Lowe's also offered scholarships directly to graduating high school seniors, but this program has been discontinued; instead, in a recent year it allocated $1 million to support two organizations "benefiting students at historically black colleges and universities."

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