The SBC Foundation’s motto is, “Commitments to Education that Make A Difference,” and it has fulfilled this directive for more than 16 years. The foundation is the philanthropic arm of SBC Communications Inc., one of America’s largest telecommunications companies, with investments in long-distance phone service, cable television, internet and web hosting, and many wireless applications.
Since 1984, the SBC Foundation has distributed more than $638 million through project grants, United Way support, and employee programs (such as matching gifts). Along the way, parent SBC Communications has become among the most admired corporate philanthropists. After making donations of $64 million in 1999 and committing $67 million in 2000, SBC Communications was named the sixth-most generous company in America (and first in the telecommunications industry) by Worth magazine, and it also has received Fortune’s highest ratings for corporate philanthropy.
Although the foundation provides support to economic development programs, health and human services, and arts and culture, it is clear that education is at or near the top of its list of priorities. In the past three years, the SBC Foundation has approved more than $22 million specifically for K-12 education projects.
“Technology is a powerful tool in teaching and learning,” said Mary Leslie, corporate manager of the SBC Foundation. “Our focus has always been on using what we know besttechnology and communicationsto broaden educational opportunities in the communities we serve.”
For the past few years, the foundation has focused on the “digital divide” that threatens to leave many young Americans behind in access to technology. Among the foundation’s initiatives with a specific K-12 focus is the Telecommunications Opportunity Program, a national program that provides information and communications technology training to minorities.
Last year, the SBC Foundation also created the National Telecommunications Partnership Awards, which are given annually to organizations that demonstrate the most innovative use of technology to enhance education. This program grew from an earlier collaboration between the SBC Foundation and Partners in Education, which developed a guide for using technology partnerships to create change, known as “Out of the Box and Onto the Web.” The foundation made $55,000 in National Telecommunications Partnership Awards last year.
Emphasis on partnerships
The use of the word “partnership” in the SBC Foundation’s awards program is no accident. The foundation explicitly states in its grants applications that it will not fund “individual public and private K-12 schools or districts or school system foundations.” Thus, a school-based program will be eligible for funds only if it teams up with other groups in the community.
The foundation treats its support of teacher preparedness programs in the same manner. Affiliation with these types of programs at the college level will greatly improve a K-12 applicant’s chances of success. For example, the Teach for Arkansas program is a collaborative effort between the University of Arkansas-Fayetteville and Phillips Community College to educate teachers dedicated to teaching minority students living in the low-income Arkansas Delta region. Courses are delivered using distance education technology and on-site instruction.
The foundation also supports bringing technology into the classroom, especially in programs that promote excellence in math, science, and engineering.
Local ties help cause
Applicants also should keep in mind that many SBC Foundation grants are made locally, with preference given to programs in which an SBC employee participates. Currently, SBC Communications operates in 13 states, and about 40 percent of its annual giving is directed to communities in those states: Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, Texas, and Wisconsin.
Localized grants are project-specific and are not especially large. Grants typically range from $1,000 to $25,000, and they have a one-year duration. Recipients of funds who wish to continue receiving support must apply annually, and they should not assume that their grant will be renewed. For this reason, the foundation usually supports applicants who have multiple sources of funding and a proven history of success. In addition, programs should have a direct, immediate, and quantifiable impactor, as Leslie describes it, “We prefer goal-driven, project-specific grants.”
Here are some of the most significant grants the foundation made in 2000, in addition to the already-described National Telecommunications Partnership Awards:
o Community Enrichment Grants: These are grants totalling $400,000 each year to local schools and other organizations using technology to address educational, economic, and quality-of-life issues (Kansas-only eligibility).
o Monterey County Office of Education: Received $50,000 to support a Bridging the Digital Divide Project to promote technology literacy among teachers.
o Cooperative Educational Service Agency (CESA) Homework Helpline: Received $150,000 to help K-12 students throughout Wisconsin with homework assistance via a toll-free number and web site access. The Homework Hotline has received $150,000 per year from SBC for the past six years.
For more information about the SBC Foundation, including guidelines used for local funding, visit the foundation’s web site.
130 East Travis, Suite 350
San Antonio, TX 78025
Contact: Mary Leslie, Corporate Manager
Phone: (800) 591-9663