Willard and Pat Walker Charitable Foundation

OVERVIEW: This funder supports healthcare and education in Arkansas, as well as in the states of Oklahoma, Kansas, and Missouri. Unsolicited grant applications are accepted during two time periods each year.

FUNDING AREAS: Healthcare and education

IP TAKE: This foundation is a family-run affair, but its matriarch passed away not long ago. Arkansas nonprofits should keep an eye on Walker to see if any changes take place with the current staff, board, or funding strategy.

PROFILE: Based in Fayetteville, Arkansas, the Willard and Pat Walker Charitable Foundation is an independent funder that has given significantly in Arkansas. The foundation was established in 2003 and funded in 2004 after assets were transferred from the Willard and Pat Walker Charitable Foundation Trust. Like many locally focused family foundations, the heirs seek to honor the legacy of the founders with ongoing grantmaking. Pat Walker passed away in September 2016.

Raised during the Great Depression, Willard and Pat Walker earned a fortune as early investors in Wal-Mart. The couple’s focus was healthcare and education, which remain the foundation's funding priorities. The Walkers gave a large sum to the Walker Student Center and Bill George Arena and established an endowed scholarship for the Biblical Studies division. The endowment was established as part of a $10 million challenge and increased as part of the $20 million challenge.

A big goal for this funder has been increased access to healthcare and education in the state. It has also been interested in preparing students to become youth ministers, family counselors, advocacy workers, chaplains, pastors, and international relief workers. The foundation and Walker family have also consistently supported the University of Arkansas and Razorback athletics. Other grantees include: Northwest Arkansas Community College, John Brown University, Arkansas Children’s Hospital, Brandon Burlsworth Foundation, Single Parent Scholarship Fund of Northwest Arkansas, Ozark Guidance Center, Circle of Life Hospice, The Jones Center for Families, the Fayetteville Public Library, the Springdale Public Library, and Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art.

Current grant guidelines can be accessed on the funder’s website. Grantmaking is typically restricted to Arkansas, Oklahoma, Missouri, and Kansas. The foundation’s board is mostly composed of family members. It typically reviews requests from January 15 to March 1 for spring/summer funding, and August 15 to October 1 for fall/winter funding.

At the end of a recent year, the foundation had over $35 million in assets and had given out over $3.4 million in charitable contributions. Many grants have been between $1,000 and $10,000. Many groups in Fayetteville, Little Rock, Springdale, and Bentonville have benefited from Walker grants.

Debbie Walker and Johnny Walker are the grandchildren of the founders and have been involved with foundation operations. Debbie Walker served as the foundation’s executive director until May 2012. General questions can be directed to 479-582-2310 or info@walkerfoundation.org.


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