Be Nice to Your Sales Associate: How Staples Crowdsources Corporate Philanthropy

By MIKE SCUTARIInsidePhilanthropy, JANUARY 29, 2016

As IP’s Sara Michelle noted in a previous post, the next time you’re picking up printer toner at Staples, it may behoove you to be particularly gregarious with your sales associate.

The reason is the Staples Foundations’ 2 Million and Change initiative, which empowers Staples associates to direct funding to nonprofit organizations focused on education or job skills. More than 9,000 associates have participated in directing donations of up to $25,000 to their organization of choice since the initiative’s inception. In 2014, grants were awarded to 990 local nonprofit organizations in 47 states. Worldwide, $2.4 million—hence 2 Million and Changewas directed to more than 1,000 organizations across 24 countries.

When we first looked at this initiative, it was related to K-12 Education, and a cursory glance at the initative’s top eight recipients suggests that, with the exception of a grant to Apopka High School Drama Department, in Apopka, Florida, the program tends to gravitate towards organizations speciaizing in job training, education, literacy, and community development.

But that doesn’t mean 2 Million and Change can’t be a viable option for music education organizations. Take recent news out of Boston, where the Music & Youth Initiative announced it received a $7,500 grant from the Staples Foundation to support the Music Clubhouse Youth Leader Program, which provides jobs for underserved teens who have shown exceptional dedication and leadership qualities in the Music Clubhouse setting.

If the Music & Youth Initiative sounds vaguely familiar, it’s because we took a closer look at it the back in November of 2015, when it awarded $220,000 in grants to 12 Youth Development Partners in support of the Music Clubhouse programs. The Boston-based group is the gold standard for music education programs across the country, and it’s good to see the Staples Foundation acknowledge its critical role in enriching the lives of children, further corroborating the theory that maybe music education’s darkest days are behind it.

So how, exactly, can music education organizations get on the 2 Million and Change radar?

First, make a connection with a Staples associate through a local Staples store or other location and engage associates in your organization through volunteering or fundraising. Second, ask associates to nominate your organization for a 2 Million & Change grant. Third, once an associate nominates your organization and you meet Staples Foundation’s eligibility requirements, submit a grant application. Lastly, contact with additional questions.