OVERVIEW: This charitable arm of the home improvement chain prioritizes public K-12 STEM education and community betterment projects. 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. Lowe’s funds projects like public school facility improvements, technology upgrades, and STEM initiatives.
IP TAKE: The foundation supports projects that align with its corporate interests and that meet “necessities” and create an “impact.”
PROFILE: Lowe’s Charitable and Educational Foundation is the philanthropic offshoot of Lowe’s home improvement stores. According to its corporate chairman and CEO, Robert Niblock, “Lowe's Foundation is committed to supporting projects that have the greatest impact on our communities and align with our core business—home improvement.” Again, according to Niblock, Lowe’s commits to education because “We believe education is the cornerstone to building bright futures and stronger communities.”
The foundation supports public K-12 STEM education through its Toolbox for Education program, established in 2006. Since its inception, the program has distributed tens of millions of dollars to thousands of schools across the country. It 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 grantmaking focuses on “building” and “improvement” in the vein of the foundation’s corporate parent. Lowe’s prioritizes "funding requests that have a permanent impact such as facility enhancement (both indoor and outdoor) as well as landscaping/clean up type projects." The foundation further states that "projects that encourage parent involvement and build stronger community spirit will be favored." Finally, the foundation emphasizes efforts "providing the greatest impact," with "basic necessities taking priority."
Grants average between $2,000 and $100,000. However, a “large majority” of successful applications fall within $2,000 and $5,000. The foundation defines “larger projects” as those between $10,000 and $25,000. Requests higher than that are “critical need projects,” which are considered on a case-by-case basis. The foundation is frank about these large requests and states that they “will be considered, but are seldom awarded.”
Like many foundations affiliated with commercial corporate companies, Lowe’s Charitable and Educational Foundation does its grantmaking “in the communities we call home.” Fortunately for fundseekers, Lowe’s is ubiquitous across the US. Their store locator is a helpful tool for identifying an outlet in your area.
Lowe’s Charitable and Education Foundation does not support student field trips, development of books and media projects, tickets to events, or continuing education for teachers and staff. However, the foundation does offer nine ideas to inspire grantseekers’ applications: 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, new grantseekers will want to take some time to review a sample application or 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, though some are location-specific. Lowe’s partners with the Jimmie Johnson Foundation for additional support of these eight school districts in California, North Carolina or Oklahoma.
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.
- Robert A. Niblock, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer