OVERVIEW: The Toyota USA Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the ubiquitous car manufacturer, is solely dedicated to supporting STEM education, mainly through large K-12 projects. The foundation typically supports nonprofits working on a citywide, regional or national scale, focusing on STEM curriculum development, student engagement, and teacher training.
IP TAKE: The foundation likes to see work with an environmental bent. If your science education program is locally focused, school-based there might be more opportunities for you directly from the corporation - including an international environmental science trip for individual teachers.
PROFILE: The Toyota USA Foundation is the philanthropic arm of Toyota Motor Sales USA, and places its giving focus where you’d likely guess it would: STEM education.
The K-12 student set is its STEM population focus. But within that wide age range, the foundation awards grants fairly evenly throughout elementary, middle, and high school-oriented projects. There is also some overlap with education for both pre-K and community populations when the work involves a K-12 cohort.
The Toyota USA Foundation sets its sights on addressing STEM education through multiple programmatic approaches, including curriculum development, teacher training, and student recruitment and engagement.
Toyota's funding is indeed large, but also often limited to a small group of recipients. According to the foundation's own statistics, it funds just 6 to 9 percent of the applications it receives each year. The foundation also limits its proposals to one-year asks and requires that grantees wait two years before applying again for any foundation funding.
All of this boils down to ensuring that you’re making your ask incisive and compelling, and that you will be able to continue with your program beyond Toyota’s single year of support.
If your science education work has an environmental bent, so much the better, as Toyota (similar to other businesses working in the manufacturing industry) likes to support environmental conservation and natural resources whenever possible.
To get the ball rolling, start with an online application (essentially an LOI) providing a "brief snapshot of the program." You can submit year-round, but the decision makers convene twice a year, in March and September. Grants are awarded in the spring of every year. The foundation also emphasizes that it does not provide specific deadlines "as they depend on the volume of applications received," so you should "apply early on in the cycle to ensure you application is considered for that particular period."
In addition to the Toyota USA Foundation, the car behemoth gives to science education through its corporate side’s Community Outreach coffers, specifically in communities where it has significant manufacturing activities. These include cities and regions in Alabama, California, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Mississippi, New York, Ohio, Texas, Washington, D.C., and West Virginia.
STEM education is still a focus in Toyota's Community Outreach, but more general K-12 education is supported as well. The foundation awards grants to support arts projects in addition to those related STEM out of this program. These funds typically support more localized community work, both for K-12 education nonprofits and schools. Some states and regions have hard deadlines; others are ongoing opportunities. Check out your location for details.
Another opportunity for teachers specifically is Toyota's International Teachers Program. Started in 1998, this professional development program provides teachers and teacher-librarians with a 2-3 week "study tour to a country that is at the forefront of innovative solutions to environmental challenges." Current and former destinations include Japan, the Galapagos, Costa Rica, and South Africa.
During these trips, the costs of which are fully paid by Toyota, "teachers explore environmental issues through hands-on activities and incorporate what they learn into interdisciplinary and solution-focused lesson plans." Toyota also provides a $500 stipend to the teacher's school to help defray the cost of any missed work time.
To be eligible, teachers must be U.S. citizens and full-time teachers working in grades 7-12 (occasional exceptions are made for 6th grade middle school teachers) with at least three years of teaching experience. While the focus of the trip is on environmental science, teachers from all disciplines are invited to apply. If interested, you can apply online and are invited to contact the program at firstname.lastname@example.org. Note that the program still appears to be active even though the most recent trip listed on the ITP website is from 2011.
- Jennifer Rochkind, Senior Manager Corporate Philanthropy and Social Responsibility