Walton Family Foundation: Arkansas Grants

OVERVIEW: This funder’s Home Region program supports Arkansas causes related to Pre-K-12 education, environmental conservation, arts and culture, economic development, job creation, youth development, and public safety.

FUNDING AREAS: K-12 education, environment, Arkansas communities

IP TAKE: WFF prioritizes charter schools in Arkansas and throughout the country. For grant seekers not involved in education, the best opportunities for Arkansas groups is in preserving local green space and creating jobs to stimulate the local economy.

PROFILE: The Walton Family Foundation (WFFF) is a private foundation that was established by the founders of Walmart, Sam and Helen Walton. It has been involved in grantmaking for around three decades and has three areas of giving. The Walton family calls Arkansas home and contributes to furthering economic development causes to improve the quality of life in Arkansas and the Mississippi Delta region. The foundation seeks to address “tough social and environmental problems with urgency and a long-term approach to create access to opportunity for people and communities.”

It is important to note that WFF operates separately from the Walmart Foundation, which is the philanthropic arm of the corporation. The funding comes from different sources, and the foundations are governed by different staffs and boards.

In a recent year, the foundation gave over $375 million to both domestic and international projects that supported social and environmental issues. Although WFF has offices in D.C., Jersey City, and Denver, it is headquartered in Bentonville, Arkansas, and a significant portion of grantmaking stays in that region.

WFF developed its Home Region program to invest in programs and initiatives that support people in Northwest Arkansas and the Arkansas and Mississippi Delta Region. In a recent year, the foundation gave over $40 million in grants to Home Region causes. It also developed a 2020 Home Region plan, which anticipates awarding over $302 million in this region by 2020. In Northwest Arkansas, the priorities are: expanding Pre-K-12 school options, arts and culture, economic development, and environmental conservation. In the Arkansas and Mississippi Delta region, the funding areas are Pre-K-12 educational improvement, public safety, youth development, and job creation.

In addition to giving back to its home region, WFF awards grants in the area of K-12 education. These grants prioritize giving children access to high-quality education to prepare them for life. Between 1992 and 2014, the foundation committed over $1.3 billion to K-12 education causes. Charter schools are a big cause for WFF, as it has funded about a quarter of the 6,700+ charter schools created in the U.S. These are the cities that WFF is focusing its K-12 education efforts on: Atlanta, Boston, Camden, Denver, Houston, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, Memphis, New Orleans, New York, Oakland, San Antonio, and Washington, D.C. And these are the states that WFF is supporting through education grants: California, Colorado, Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Tennessee and Texas, Arizona, Arkansas, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Wisconsin. The foundation gave over $200 million to K-12 education causes in a recent year and has committed itself to contributing at least $1 billion over the next five years.

The final giving priority at WFF seeks to help environments thrive, with the end goal of driving the economy. The foundation funds economic incentives that push for sustainable resource management in places all around the world. Grant seekers should consider pitching a proposal that outlines a lasting conservation solution for waterways, because the environmental initiatives are freshwater conservation and marine conservation. The foundation makes around $100 million in grants annually for environment initiatives. Past funding includes conservation for the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico.

Unfortunately for grant seekers, WFF does not accept unsolicited grant proposals, except for public charter school developers. However, interested nonprofits can send in a brief letter of inquiry via mail. Except for environmental projects, all letters of inquiry should be mailed to the foundation’s Bentonville, Arkansas, office. General questions can be directed to 479-464-1570 or via online form.

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