Next Up for Target's Philanthropy: Youth Wellness Grants

Just as students' summer vacations were coming to their bittersweet ends, the Target Corporation made its own bittersweet announcement: It completed its effort to devote $1 billion for Education, and it was time to move on.

Two weeks later, Target announced its brand new giving initiative: Youth Wellness. To that end, Target is seeking proposals for what it’s calling its Youth Programming Wellness Grant. It focuses on two areas: Healthy Eating and Active Living, and it is looking to fund programs that provide "access, affordability, and inspiration"—the very ways Target likes to describe its stores.

This synergy isn't arbitrary. Laysha Ward, the company's chief corporate social responsibility (CSR) officer, stated:

We are in a unique position to use our size and reach to deliver both business and societal impact. It [wellness] is one of our signature business categories (in addition to baby, kids and style), it is now the focus for our CSR strategy, and it is a priority for our team member engagement... We're building our portfolio as we speak, but in 2016, there will be a full range of partnerships and programs dedicated to wellness. From the ongoing innovation we’re seeing with new products (like Made to Matter) and tests with our in-store cafés to team member wellness challenges and new community initiatives.

This grant focus is a new arena for Target, so there's no blueprint for "successfully funded organizations" to follow. And while its first call for propsoals is well articulated, further clues can, perhaps, be gleaned from Ward's own statement about what health means to her and her family:

I think wellness means something unique to each of us. For me and my husband, it means eating well... We're foodies and love trying new and healthy dishes. I've been wearing my Fitbit, which is great for tracking my progress. I also try to get moving whenever I can. I live near some great walking trails and try to get to the gym, but dancing is my favorite way to stay active. The more fun you have with it, the easier it is! Ultimately, I believe in the notion of progress over perfection—it’s the little things you do every day that can add up to make a big difference.

Ward's use of the word "progress" is key, because when it comes to wellness programs, Target has made it clear that it's focusing on outcomes by supporting programs that are "research-based, with proven or promising outcomes in driving measurable, sustained changes in behavior and attitudes."

One more thing to keep in mind: This youth wellness movement refers to the Target Corporation, not the Target Foundation. The Target Foundation does exist, but it specifically serves the Twin Cities, Minnesota area, which is the corporation’s headquarters. The Target Foundation supports social services and arts and culture grants in Minneapolis and St. Paul.

Related: Target Corporation: Grants for Public Health