Who’s Getting STEM Funding from America’s Most Generous Company?

OK, to be fair, Walmart actually led corporate cash giving last year. But relative to its enormous profits the retail gigantor doesn’t fare so well. Leading the country by percentage of profit donated was metals producer Alcoa, giving an impressive 12 percent away. Let's take a look at Alcoa's STEM giving, one of its two major priorities. 

According to the Chronicle of Philanthropy’s annual survey of corporate donations, Alcoa donated just over $39 million in cash last year (compared to Walmart’s leading $312 million). But judging by percentage of its profits, Alcoa had a significant lead on other corporate giving programs (Walmart, again for perspective gave away just 1.3 percent). 

You can see more over at the survey, but given Alcoa’s record, and considering the medium-sized fish are generally more genial, we thought we’d take a look at the aluminum producer’s extensive STEM giving. Like most corporate funders, the Alcoa Foundation sends a chunk of its giving to local projects, about half. But its company-wide priorities are environmental sustainability and education, with STEM one of its largest priorities, the foundation giving $4.4 million to the cause in 2013.

Also like many corporate foundations, Alcoa is concerned with engaging more students in science fields, with an emphasis on women and underrepresented minorities. They give to a mix of competitions, hands-on learning programs, mentoring, and informal education. Giving is global, but a small majority goes to the United States. Here are a few of its priority programs: 

  • Not surprisingly, there’s a competition in the mix. FIRST Tech Challenge is a signature science competition the company sponsors, a robotics contest that involves high school students in China, Europe and the United States. 
  • One large grantee has been the Institute of International Education Technical Education Program, which helps college students in Russia learn technical disciplines through stipends, equipment purchases and teacher support. Alcoa has given more than $1.5 million to the initiative over time. 
  • National and regional informal education programs also win support. Boys & Girls Club local programs have received regular support including a Technology Training Program in which high school students in Illinois are taught about tech-related skills and career opportunities. Girl Scouts, a popular STEM recipient these days, receives support from Alcoa for science education activities, with big support to national organization and smaller grants to local chapters. 
  • National STEM programs like Achieve, Inc., Discovery Education, DonorsChoose.org, and Teach for America are also regular Alcoa grantees. 
  • Several individual school districts have seen direct support from the foundation for STEM education. 
  • Professional groups including the Society of Women Engineers and the National Society of Black Engineers also receive support.  

One kind of quirky thing about the foundation, although not unheard of, is that giving channels through the local offices, so potential grantees are directed toward the nearest company facility. Learn more about guidelines here (pdf). And check out more IP coverage below: