OVERVIEW: The Walmart family’s foundation is deeply and heavily invested in the school choice and charter school movement, giving several million in grants to launch or improve charter schools. Walton does not specifically target science education, but being the goliath of education philanthropy that it is, some of that blast of funding makes its way toward science education, including schools that focus on STEM and to a lesser extent postsecondary education.
IP TAKE: For schools with a STEM education focus, Walton is particularly interested in preparing graduates for the high-tech workforce. But many grants are by invitation only, and grantseekers should note the geographic restrictions on the foundation’s Environment and Home Region programs.
PROFILE: The Walton Family Foundation is, by annual giving, among the top funders in the country. So even though science education is not an explicit priority for the Walton Family Foundation, some of its annual grants ends up benefiting the cause.
Started by Wal-Mart founders Sam and Helen Walton and currently run by their grandchildren, the Walton Family Foundation is rooted in the “belief in the power of individuals to transform their lives” and focuses on large-scale “transformative” grants to realize that possibility.
Within that broad context, the foundation has three main funding areas: K-12 education improvement, thriving environments and prosperous communities, and “giving back” to the family’s “home region” of “northwest Arkansas and the Arkansas and Mississippi Delta.”
Regarding the foundation’s K-12 education funding, Walton is all about education reform, the charter movement, and school choice. Primarily, that means promoting the charter school movement, funding charter schools directly, and ultimately injecting the competitive spirit of capitalism into the school system.
What does that mean for Walton's K-12 science education funding? Mainly that the only real opening is for charter schools that focus on STEM education. Walton has a very large program to set up new public charter schools. So for a startup or existing school that puts a focus on science, tech, engineering and math education, Walton could be a big funder.
Awards for the most recent year can be viewed (divided by region) on the foundation’s Education Grants page.
Before applying for funds to establish a charter, Walton requires that prospective applicants receive a referral “from a Walton Family Foundation program officer or grant partner.” Options for higher ed science funding from Walton are quite limited but do still exist. On the plus side, the foundation does accept unsolicited letters of inquiry throughout the year.
Walton is an intimidating funder to approach, but its size and scope make it a potentially indispensable partner in your science education initiative.
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