VELA Invests in People

VELA invests in people and programs that are meeting students’ and families’ unique education needs.

Like the sail-shaped constellation that shares its name, VELA (pronounced “Vay-la”) is about exploring new possibilities.

VELA partners with organizations and communities to administer microgrants and bridge grants to eligible individuals and organizations that are innovating outside of the traditional education system, to help them put their ideas into practice. VELA connects its grantees to a national network and provides them with a platform to elevate their work and learning.

VELA was founded on the belief that a one-size-fits-all system is insufficient; instead, we envision a world where every family and young person has agency over their education and access to rich, meaningful learning opportunities that create pathways to a life of purpose.

We believe in custom approaches that families are building for their own communities. We support a diverse portfolio of learning models and platforms, content and resources, that redefine how, when, and where learning takes place, and that allow families to access options that better meet their needs.

Areas of Interest

We are interested in funding programs that:

  • Enable parents to choose / implement the educational model that works best for their child.
  • Customize learners’ experience to be just right for them.
  • Contribute to a diversity of out-of-system PK-12 solutions.
  • Create community and a sense of belonging for parents, students, and educators.
  • Provide access to out-of-system learning for historically underserved communities.

Ideas need not be ‘proven’ to receive our funding; VELA is about exploring new possibilities and enabling more people to test ideas more quickly. 

How VELA Came to Be

A few years ago, a small group of education philanthropists started discussing traditional education. They perceived it as static, with children learning through antiquated structures. Children’s educational outcomes had more to do with their families’ socioeconomic status than their actual ability. And demands from the government and the private sector were not being met by the traditional educational system, which was proving to be an ocean liner, slow to change course.

What if, the group considered, they invested not in the ocean liners but in a fleet of smaller, people-powered crafts that could move faster and explore less chartered waters? After all, a small but steadily increasing number of families have been pursuing such a course — through homeschooling, microschooling, learning pods, and other alternative approaches — for years. What if more people explored more ideas more quickly?

Enter VELA Education Fund

How We Fund

VELA makes two types of investments:

Microgrants (up to $25,000)

We award microgrants to early-stage everyday entrepreneurs — students, families, educators, community members — who are innovating outside of the traditional education system. Learn more: Microgrants | Meet Our Grantees 

Bridge Grants ($25,000+)

We award bridge grants to more established organizations that are looking to bridge to wider adoption, whether it’s to another audience, another region, or through a new pilot. As always, VELA is looking for nontraditional education programs that represent bottom-up, not top-down, innovation. Learn more: Bridge Grants | Meet Our Grantees

VELA is committed to moving money quickly and trusting people with investments. Applications are straightforward, and reporting requirements value learning over compliance. VELA’s focus is on maximizing grantees’ impact.

Leadership

Meredith Olson, President

Beth Seling, Chief of Operations

Board

Derek Johnson, Senior Vice President, Stand Together

Caleb Offley, Senior Advisor K-12 Education Program, Walton Family Foundation

Meredith Olson, President, VELA Education Fund

Dr. Todd Rose, Co-Founder and President, Populace

Marc Sternberg, Founder, A-Street Ventures