When Bell Atlantic and GTE merged to become Verizon, the Verizon Foundation became one of America’s top five corporate contributors, giving $70 million in its first year. But what makes the Verizon Foundation stand out among the crowd is its commitment to technology–both in its grant-making and the way it administers its grants.
The foundation views itself as completely “cyber,” with all grant inquiries and applications accepted electronically. This emphasis on technology as a tool exhibits Verizon’s mission of “utilizing technology as a catalyst for positive change,” explains the foundation’s Agnes Strait.
Before the merger, GTE had supported literacy efforts across the nation, and Bell Atlantic’s foundation had begun accepting grant applications exclusively online. After the merger’s first year, Verizon adopted the cyber-application system and made a new commitment to literacy initiatives. According to Strait, applicants have accepted the electronic application process “very favorably,” especially those who “take full advantage of the many tools our web site has to offer.”
Strait also adds, “They’ve seen for themselves how our site is far more than just an ‘automatic teller machine’ that dispenses money–how it also can help them assess their technology needs, develop a compelling grant application, gain technology training assistance, and a myriad of other services.” Those who apply online are notified electronically of grant decisions, too.
Others apparently admire the foundation’s web site, too. The site has won awards from the Council on Foundations, the Communications Network, and the Wilmer Shields Rich Awards program.
Technology in practice
Verizon doesn’t just support technology through its grant administration–it supports the use of technology in education. The foundation’s funding priorities center on:
- Literacy and e-literacy across the United States;
- Bridging the Digital Divide–the foundation works to provide internet technology to all through direct technology grants and funds for advanced training; and
- Workforce development–Verizon supports technological education so students have a future based in new skills.
Specific to education, the foundation aims to improve education at all grade levels through technology. As Strait notes, “Educational nonprofits must be equipped with technology and technology know-how to effectively expand their reach into the community. Students of all ages, from all sectors of society, must be ‘e-literate’ to ensure their future success in academics and in life.”
In the last six months, the Verizon Foundation has made the following grants:
- New Economics for Women (NEW)–This organization will establish on-site, K-12 literacy learning centers in five low-income housing projects in urban Los Angeles. NEW is a community development corporation whose mission is to improve the economic and social conditions of minority single parents by providing affordable housing, access to child care and other support services, and jobs and employment services that lead to economic self-sufficiency. NEW’s learning centers provide computer training, reading, writing, and math programs for K-12 students; a homework tutoring program; and a resource room of educational and reference materials.
- New Visions for Public Schools–This grant will support Project FIRST (Fostering Instructional Reform through Service and Technology) by placing an AmeriCorps technology member in one school and one nonprofit organization serving the needs of after-school children in lower Manhattan. Through Project FIRST, schools across the city will update their technology resources, develop long-range technology plans, implement professional development programs for teachers, and integrate technology with curricula.
- Pinellas County (Fla.) Education Foundation–Verizon Foundation is underwriting two literacy projects of the Pinellas County Education Foundation. The first project will provide technology training to teachers, improving their computer literacy skills and their ability to teach using computer technology. The second project will provide funding for teachers to implement innovative and meaningful literacy programs in the classroom.
Use the entire site
The Verizon Foundation recommends that you take advantage of its entire web site, taking some time to review the funding priorities and the “frequently asked questions” section. The various sections on the site are intended to help applicants write their best applications and increase their chances of receiving grants. If you want to speak to a foundation representative, you must enter your ZIP code in an online form to receive contact information for the representative in your location.
The foundation provides more than just grants for education; it also works to supply technology training and contribute employee volunteer time. These opportunities exist for educators as well, and they may benefit many school-based programs.
In 2001, the foundation plans to contribute $70 million in grants, a minimum of 10 percent of which will go toward literacy programs, with priority on basic literacy and e-literacy. Grant applications are reviewed yearly from January 1 through November 30. Some matching grants are made, and almost all grants are made for a one-year period.
Verizon also plans to continue its corporate and philanthropic focus on technology. As Strait explains, “We intend to maintain our leading edge in using technology in our grant-making, our employee volunteerism, and in our foundation’s business as a whole.”