March 8, 2017
Mike Scutari | Inside Philanthropy
The Walmart Foundation's $500,000 grant to Boston University to launch the Women Veterans Network (WoVeN), represents a confluence of two timely trends across the modern philanthropy space. First, the robust efforts from corporate funders to reintegrate veterans into society, and two, the emergence of the college campus as the epicenter for such efforts.
To support the 2.2 million women who have engaged in military service, Boston University will train women veterans to facilitate a series of 10-week support groups that aim to enhance wellness, quality of life, family relationships and supportive connections with other veterans and, as needed, referrals for additional health services. The Walmart Foundation will fund the first 15 months of this new five-year program.
While corporations like JP Morgan, Home Depot, and Bristol-Myers Squibb have emerged as some of veterans' most ardent supporters over the past few years, perhaps no funder is better positioned to move the dial than Walmart. As America's largest private employer, there's also an element of enlightened self-interest at play, as veterans can also be a great source of new workers for the retailer.
As previously noted in a post looking at Walmart's support for veterans and the disabled, the retailer's support for jobs was largely focused on veterans in 2015, including $750,000 for veterans in Illinois and $350,000 for veterans and military families in North Carolina. And back in May, the foundation gave $2.6 million to veterans organizations for job placement and early intervention programs for older adults and women.
And so its newest give to Boston University fits neatly into this continuum, while embracing the idea that the college campus can act as an effective nexus point for ongoing networking and support initiatives. It's really a no-brainer when you think about it, since many U.S. campuses already have extensive veterans support systems in place. In the case of Boston University, Walmart clearly sees the value in tapping the expertise of its School of Medicine, whose doctors will train women veterans to lead the support groups.
Other funders seem to have gotten the memo. Last June, Lockheed Martin Corporation renewed its partnership with the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University. A national network for veteran entrepreneurs, the program provides academic and professional support to ease the transition from the military to business school and the business world.
Which leads me to my final and related point. Universities are an optimal platform by which to train veterans and propel them into the workforce. Why reinvent the wheel when the job training infrastructure is already in place? So it should come as no surprise that we've seen gifts earmarked to the University of Chicago Booth School of Business and New York University's Stern School of Business to support veterans seeking an MBA.
Admittedly, the Walmart Foundation's investment in Boston University's Women Veterans Network is less about job training and more about enhancing emotional wellness. That said, its two main characteristics—the burgeoning corporate support for veterans workforce development and the pivotal role of the university campus—effectively mirror the current state of veterans-related giving.
"The Walmart Foundation is proud to help fund Boston University's launch of the Women Veterans Network, and anticipates that this five-year initiative will play an important role in establishing networks and enhancing opportunities for female veterans as they re-enter civilian life," said Kathy Cox, senior manager of Walmart Giving.