Staples Foundation: Grants for K-12 Education

OVERVIEW: Staples Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the ubiquitous office supply chain store, focuses on opportunities for education and job skills, with a particular emphasis on disadvantaged youth.

IP TAKE: Staples Foundation is very much in the K-12 education game, especially for underserved students. For its top level giving, the foundation does not accept unsolicited proposals, but there is huge potential value in getting to know the manager and associates at your local store.

PROFILE: Staples Foundation was established in 2002 by the ubiquitous office supply chain store. It supports education and job skill opportunities for all people, but is especially focused on K-12 education, particularly for disadvantaged populations.

Staples Foundation gives out top-level grants to national programs in order to create visible partnerships. These include Boys & Girls Clubs of America, Initiative for a Competitive Inner City, Ashoka, and TakingITGlobal. Like many corporate company-based foundations, Staples Foundation does not accept unsolicited grant proposals for these big partnerships; it’s a “don’t call us, we’ll call you.”

What makes Staples Foundation an exciting and viable opportunity for K-12 education grants are the possibilities at the local level.

The program to latch on to is 2 Million & Change, which allows Staples associates around the world to direct grant funding as they see fit. The “2 Million” reflects the bottom-line amount Staples dedicates to this initiative each year; the “and change” reflects the fact that it always goes over 2 million. In fact, in 2013, $2.5 million was directed to more than 1,000 organizations across 23 countries. The vast majority of that giving was U.S.-based: 975 grants to non-profits in 49 states (c’mon, Hawaii!).

In the U.S., there is extra incentive to engage your Staples associates. The 2 Million & Change initiative awards larger grants to organizations where associates not only recommend that their bosses give, but are engaged themselves by volunteering or fundraising for the non-profit.

If you haven’t already figured this out, what this boils down to is you’ve got to start getting to know the employees at your local Staples store. These employees take the program seriously; more than 7,000 associates participated in directing donations in 2013.

For the record, Staples employees who work in administrative positions (not directly in Staples retail stores) can nominate too. Some of the bigger dollar getters (up to $25,000) have come from these employees, again because of their direct engagement with the organizations. 2013 beneficiaries of the bigger 2 Million & Change bucks include Erica Rae’s Kids (in support of Aurora, CO public schools), the John Andrew Mazie Foundation (a mentorship program), and Read to a Child.

Other 2013 recipients of 2 Million and Change, as nominated by Staples employees, include the Flutie Foundation for its iPad program and Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries for its program to keep teenage mothers in school and well-positioned for beyond. Staples Foundation provides an interactive map that lists an array of its grant recipients from 2002-2013. It won’t give you dollar amounts, but it will give you a sense of the scope of non-profit organizations that the foundation supports, which includes individual schools (traditional public schools as well as KIPP), arts organizations, nature programs, and social service entities.

Next time you’re at your local Staples shopping for an ink cartridge, new file folders, or a tub of popcorn, you can also use it as an opportunity to create the building blocks for a successful grant request.

PEOPLE:

Katy Dobbs, Director of Global Community and Giving for Staples, Inc.