Alcoa Foundation: Grants for Science Education


OVERVIEW: The metals manufacturing and engineering company Alcoa, along with its philanthropic arm, has a highly developed foundation and corporate responsibility program focused on its “commitment to sustainability.” It pursues this commitment through direct support of environmental projects as well as education (especially STEM) and workforce development initiatives. Grants go to a long list of nonprofits, including science contests, after school programs, school districts, and workforce training programs.

IP TAKE: Given its corporate parent, it’s no surprise that the foundation puts STEM, environmental, and specific manufacturing workforce education at its forefront. The door is wide open both conceptually and geographically, so get started by contacting your local facility.

PROFILE: Alcoa has one of the United States’ leading corporate responsibility programs, orchestrating massive volunteering efforts, local community support, and big international giving priorities. In one recent evaluation of corporate donations, Alcoa ranked highest in terms of giving relative to profits.

So where does all of Alcoa’s generosity go? The Alcoa Foundation exists to apply “Alcoa’s values to sustain our communities and our world." It takes pride in citing its “sustainability” long before it was trendy to do so, and the foundation approaches that term broadly.  “Sustainability” indicates support of environmental initiatives as well as education—and therefore community sustainability—in the areas where Alcoa has a corporate presence worldwide.

Within its Education branch, the Alcoa Foundation primarily focuses on STEM education and workforce development, with a "special emphasis on engaging girls, women, and other under-represented groups to pursue science and technology careers." It also supports “general education” and “general job readiness.”  

In Alcoa's Environment program, key elements are Education and Environmental Literacy, which seek to "promote environmental awareness and create environmental community ambassadors among students, communities and Alcoa employees."  

The foundation’s annual report and Global Impact pages (both available via its home page) provide a useful breakdown of Alcoa’s giving priorities. In recent years, more than 40 percent of the Education program's funding focused on STEM education, with around 15 percent going to general education. Additionally, around 40 percent of the foundation’s Environment program funding in recent years has gone towards environmental education.

Alcoa gives big internationally, with about 50% of its funds going “to Alcoa locations around the world, to be used for local initiatives in the communities where we operate”  As part of its Workforce Development program, Alcoa supports “projects that provide education and training opportunities in engineering and manufacturing...helping people set the stage for self-sufficiency.” The Institute of International Education Technical Education Program, for example, has landed millions from the company over the years for its work in Russia, and support has also gone to the Manufacturing Institute, which works “with community colleges in regions focusing on the aerospace sector to align training programs to industry certifications.” Alcoa also has a program dedicated specifically to supporting U.S. military veterans transition into the civilian labor market.

For younger students, Alcoa also offers international competitions like the FIRST Tech Challenge, which recruits high school students to compete in robotics in the United States, China, and Europe. It also has a Junior Achievement program designed to attract students around the world “to pursue careers in STEM-related fields.”

Some big national endeavors also see regular Alcoa support. Examples include Achieve, Inc. and Teach for America. Informal education like after school programs is another focus for the funder, which has given support at the national and local levels to the Boys and Girls Clubs and the Girl Scouts. Alcoa also boasts the Manufacture Your Future partnership with Discovery Education "to provide 6th-12th grade educators, administrators, school counselors and families" with STEM lesson plans and career planning information.

With all of these large-scale projects, keep in mind that 50 percent of Alcoa’s education giving is allocated to "community-based partners" where the corporation has a presence. In addition to the local chapters of national organizations mentioned above, school districts also receive significant support from Alcoa (again, in locations where the company operates), reaching upwards of $70,000 or higher in a few cases.

Alcoa’s presence and workforce is widespread throughout the United States and beyond. Prospective grantees should note that the foundation is particularly interested in measurable results, project sustainability, diversity and the inclusion of underrepresented communities, and the development of shareable best practices.  

The Alcoa’s Foundation’s funding guidelines relate details of the specific initiatives the foundation will support. Proposals must request a minimum investment of $15,000 and the foundation requires grantseekers to contact a local Alcoa facility to get started.


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