The heirs to the Walmart retail empire are believed to be America’s—and the world’s—wealthiest family. With such massive dynastic wealth at their disposal, they have the capacity to make a powerful impact on American political, social and cultural life for decades to come—and some are already exercising it.
Yet aside from their well-known Walton Family Foundation, which many family members are involved in, there’s a lot of other family philanthropy that flies under the radar, or at least out of the spotlight. Several family members are engaged in philanthropic projects of their own, most keeping a fairly low profile. Their foundations often lack a website, and some have virtually no public presence. The Waltons’ philanthropy is notably less visible than some other more publicly philanthropic families, such as the Pritzkers or the Simonses, despite the Bentonville billionaires’ much greater combined wealth.
Given these heirs’ potential philanthropic power—and the massive role family members like Alice Walton are already playing—it’s important to keep track of their many foundations, though not always easy. With help from tax filings and FoundationIQ, I’ve rounded up 12 foundations linked to the family. All were started and, in almost all cases, are still directed by Walton family members. While their interests are as varied as one might expect of any large clan, and their public profiles vary, all benefit from the vast wealth that began with Sam and Bud Walton, the founders of Walmart.
This is not a comprehensive list. It doesn’t include all of the foundations started by Walton family members—I’ve left off WFF, some of its offshoots, and Walton funds that largely support single nonprofits. Nor does it likely encompass all Walton philanthropy. The family’s giving could also stretch beyond these vehicles to more opaque options like donor-advised funds. It’s also worth noting that none of this giving comes from Walmart itself, which has its own corporate philanthropy.
But this collection of public giving vehicles does offer a catalog of the varied philanthropic approaches and priorities of the family’s second and third generations. And there are some commonalities that bind them together: Most are still headquartered in Bentonville, Arkansas, Walmart’s home city and the base for the family office, Walton Enterprises LLC. Another similarity: Many of the foundations on this list were started with an initial gift of Walmart stock.
Listed from smallest to largest in terms of assets based on the most recent available information, here is what we know about 11 Walton family foundations.
Audrey J. Walton and Ann Walton Kroenke Charitable Foundation, Audrey J. Walton and Nancy Walton Laurie Charitable Foundation
These two mother-daughter foundations are much older than most of the Waltons’ individual philanthropies and also much smaller. Each is named for Audrey J. Walton, whose husband Bud co-founded Walmart with his brother Sam. The foundations’ other namesakes are the couple’s two daughters, Ann Walton Kroenke and Nancy Walton Laurie. They are also two of the only philanthropies I could find that are linked to that side of the Walton family. In each case, mother and daughter are the sole members of each board, except for each foundation’s treasurer. Bud Walton died in March 1995, the same year both foundations received their tax-exempt status.
Assets totaled $6 million and $2 million, respectively, for the two grantmakers, based on their tax filings in 2019 and 2020. In recent years, the foundation named for Ann Walton Kroenke, whose net worth is an estimated $8.7 billion, gave mostly five-figure gifts to children’s health and educational charities in Missouri, where she lives. The foundation of her sister, Nancy Walton Laurie, whose wealth is estimated at $7.8 billion, gave just a single grant in both 2018 and 2019, each time to a social services agency, Help of Southern Nevada, to fund a case manager. As one might expect for such small operations, neither foundation has a website.
Alumbra Innovations Foundation
Endowed with gifts of cash and First Solar stock by Christy R. Walton at the end of 2018, the foundation is among the most recently established and smallest of the Walton philanthropies, with less than $4.5 million in assets based on its 2019 tax filing. This foundation appears to be the charitable arm of Christy Walton’s organization Innovaciones Alumbra, which is a network of businesses, many of which she founded. While iAlumbra is focused on aquaculture, land stewardship and community development, past foundation grants show support for both those causes and others, including museums, education and religious institutions. One more recent grant supported a gathering of experts and community leaders to discuss climate-resilient infrastructure in San Diego. Christy Walton, whose late husband John was one of four children of Sam and Helen Walton, has a net worth estimated at $7.7 billion.
This social impact fund, led by James M. Walton, includes both an investment fund and a foundation. Grantmaking focuses on education, Indigenous rights, civic engagement, the environment and arts and culture. Giving is national in scope, with a focus on Denver, Colorado, where Wend is based, along with a few international grants. Recent grants include backing for progressive causes, such as the Democracy Frontlines Fund and the Hive Fund for Climate and Gender Justice, as well as more traditional ones, such as a Denver-based United Way. The foundation’s grantmaking rose from $4 million to $24 million in recent years, though its assets totaled only $65 million in 2019, suggesting it may be operating on a pay-as-you-go basis.
For a closer look at Wend Collective, see IP’s article on it and two other growing, low-profile Walton philanthropies.
Started by Sam R. Walton in 2016, this foundation’s stated priorities include climate change, clean energy, youth (with a focus on cycling) and civic engagement. It has also given several public gifts for COVID relief since the pandemic started. The foundation has some left-leaning political connections, including current and former staff members who have served in Democratic administrations, and support for the Center for American Progress. As of 2019, the foundation had an almost $166 million endowment, double the total from the year before, largely thanks to a massive gift of Walmart stock from Sam Walton. It gave out $33.5 million in grants in 2020, according to Executive Director Clare Bastable, who said the foundation is scaling rapidly. It has no website, but Bastable said one will be launched later this year.
For a closer look at Catena Foundation, see IP’s article on it and two other low-profile Walton philanthropies.
Penner Family Foundation
Established by Carrie Walton Penner, the daughter of Rob Walton, with several gifts of Walmart stock, this foundation’s endowment totaled nearly $190 million by 2019. As of its most recent tax filing, its board consisted of Walton Penner and her husband, Gregory, who is chairman of Walmart and runs a venture capital firm, as well as two employees of the Walton family office and family foundation. The foundation has no website, but tax filings show several grants in the $2 million to $3 million range, many with personal connections. Recipients include Georgetown University (where the couple met), Stanford University (where they attended graduate school), the Aspen Institute (she’s a trustee) and USA Water Polo (their son plays at Brown University).
Founded by Ben and Lucy Ana Walton, this foundation is one arm of Zoma Lab, which manages the couple’s philanthropic gifts and capital investments. Focused on the founders’ home regions of Colorado and Chile, the foundation works on early childhood development and community economic development in both regions, though past grants indicate it has also funded national organizations. Its work in Chile also includes water and workforce development. Incorporated in 2018, the grantmaker had $239 million in assets as of 2019.
Alice L. Walton Foundation
Best known for bankrolling the creation of the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Alice Walton also maintains this foundation, among other philanthropic projects. The only daughter of Walmart founder Sam Walton, Alice Walton is one of the wealthiest Waltons,; her estimated $62.9 billion fortune ranks among the top 20 largest on Earth. The foundation, which has a minimal public presence, calls out arts, education, health and economic opportunity as its priorities. Based on its most recent tax filing, the foundation gave several multimillion-dollar gifts to art museums, including $5 million to Crystal Bridges, along with million-dollar grants to organizations like the Clinton Foundation and Hendrix College. The foundation’s assets totaled nearly $360 million as of 2019.
Rob and Melani Walton Foundation
This foundation’s namesake couple, Rob and Melani Walton, have a wide range of funding interests, stretching nationally and internationally. The foundation cites three major areas of work: advancing knowledge, promoting healing, and increasing sustainability. Its environmental efforts have received a lot of press recently, including a $100 million gift to expand protected areas in Africa, signing onto a $5 billion conservation pledge, and joining an effort to preserve 5% of the world’s oceans.
Perhaps the most prominent of the Walton philanthropies outside the family foundation, it is also larger than most, with almost $443 million in assets as of 2019. It is also drawing from one of the family’s largest fortunes: Rob Walton, the eldest son of Sam and Helen Walton, has an estimated net worth of $62.7 billion, ranking him, along with his sister Alice, among the 20 richest people on Earth. Rob Walton is the retired chairman of the board of Walmart, and was a longtime board member of the Walton Family Foundation.
This foundation is the philanthropic branch of Builders Vision, the family office of Lukas T. Walton and his wife Samantha. The grandson of Walmart founder Sam Walton, Lukas has an estimated $16 billion fortune. Launched in 2017, the foundation has no website, but staff say it is focused on five areas: climate, energy, food and agriculture, ocean preservation and the arts. Grantmaking is national in scope, with a focus on Chicago—where it is located—and the Midwest. Despite his youth and relatively smaller net worth, his foundation is one of the largest of the Walton family, with nearly $547 million in assets as of the most recent tax filing.
For a closer look at Builders Initiative, see IP’s article on it and two other low-profile Walton philanthropies.
Town Branch Foundation
Launched by James “Jim” Carr Walton with a gift of Walmart stock, this foundation had $562 million in assets as of 2019. Jim Walton, who is the third son of Sam and Helen, has an estimated net worth of $63.8 billion. He sits on the board of directors with his wife, Lynne McNabb Walton, and a family foundation employee who serves as treasurer, based on the most recent tax filing.
Town Branch primary grantees are think tanks, schools and universities, and youth organizations, based on its 2019 tax filings. Nearly all of the foundation’s gifts that year were four or five figures, such as a $5,000 grant to the Arkansas Children’s Foundation, but the couple also gave one massive donation: $11.5 million to Jim’s sister Alice’s Crystal Bridges Museum. The foundation has no website and public mentions are rare. One exception: It is listed as giving $10,000 or more annually to the Centers for Youth and Families, an Arkansas health nonprofit. It is also mentioned as a supporter of the Milken Institute’s 2020 Global Conference.
Art Bridges, Inc.
Set up by Alice Walton in 2016, this foundation buys, maintains and loans out American art. Until recently, the board consisted of Alice Walton and current or former Walton family foundation or family office employees. But now, she is one member of an eight-person board that includes Ford Foundation President Darren Walker, making it one of very few Walton-established philanthropies governed by non-family members. Based in Fort Worth, Texas, it had an $856 million endowment as of 2019.