Target shifts charity focus from education to wellness

Target Corp. said this week it will be phasing out its Take Charge of Education charitable efforts and turn instead to “wellness” initiatives.

A Q&A on the company’s website with Target’s chief corporate social responsibility officer, Laysha Ward, spells out the change. “We know our guests care about wellness and are focused on making better choices for themselves, their families and communities,” Ward said in the post. “Plus, for the first time in centuries, our children are expected to have shorter life expectancies than we are.”

The Take Charge of Education program began in 1997 and has become a fixture of in-store announcements and a staple of school fundraising. The company said it has already reached its goal of giving $1 billion to education.

“We made a significant impact in lifting U.S. high school graduation rates and helping kids reach their full potential,” Ward said.

But the fine print: The average contribution, per school, is just $370, with $432 million in contributions directly to over 120,000 schools. The total may be large, but so is the U.S. education system, and a billion dollars just doesn’t buy what it used to.

The company said it will phase out its Take Charge of Education program, with a final “unrestricted transition grant to all schools that receive a TCOE payout in February 2016.” The Star Tribune reports that Minneapolis Public Schools officials say said the district has received $1.43 million since the program started. St. Paul schools got nearly $100,000 this year alone.

Instead of education, Target says, look for “a full range of partnerships and programs dedicated to wellness that build on our legacy of work in education, sustainability, diversity and inclusion, and addressing local community needs.” The company isn’t naming names at this point, but says it is “building a portfolio” and will have more to say in 2016.