Best Buy Foundation: Grants for Public Health

OVERVIEW: The Best Buy Foundation is focused on 21st Century skills and technology-based learning for teenagers, and the connection of that learning to health and wellness.

IP TAKE: The Best Buy Foundation makes grants to both national and community-centric organizations through a lens of providing technology skills to teens. The foundation refreshingly recognizes many ways to provide these skills, as well as many reasons—including health and wellness. But it's important to note that the foundation's sole focus is on teenagers. One more 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 technology and “21st-century skills.” What distinguishes this funder more is its narrow age-group focus, which is limited to teenagers (ages 13 – 18) and its simultaneous broad take on how and why teenagers should be engaged.

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 of a well-rounded education and empowerment. This is where health and wellness come into play.

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 are 501(c)(3) organizations with established out-of-school time programming, or programming with a “proven track record” of 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: the foundation states that the average grant size here is $5,000, with a maximum of $10,000. Eligible organizations must be a public or nonprofit community-based organization. (The foundation gives 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. In the belief that “access to technology creates access to opportunity,” the Best Buy Foundation focuses on providing underserved student populations with “hands-on access” to technology education and tools that set them up for success.

What types of programs does Best Buy fund? 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. When it comes to health programming, these are tools to make the health education, engagement and empowerment happen.

There are no recent recipients of a National Grant working in health and wellness (though the potential is certainly there). Recent Community Grant recipients include:

Of course health programs can also be driven by schools, youth development clubs, and libraries—all of which are heartily funded by the Best Buy Foundation as well.

Best Buy Foundation's 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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