Bridge Grants

What are Bridge Grants?

VELA Education Fund is awarding bridge grants of $25,000-$150,000 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.

In summer 2021, VELA Education Fund is awarding bridge grants to organizations that reflect one of the following descriptions:

  1. Nontraditional learning environments with the potential to scale. These programs provide learners with their primary educational experience. An example: a network of microschools.
  2. Supports that help families better implement their nontraditional learning models. Examples: programs that provide content, specialized academic programs, or instructional coaching for parents.
  3. Established organizations piloting a new, innovative program or initiative in response to feedback from learners and/or families. Examples: new approaches to teaching and learning or making an existing model accessible to a new community through a non-traditional delivery model.

 

Who should apply?

Bridge grants are intended for programs seeking to significantly expand their current model or organizations that already have a substantial reach but want to pilot a new initiative. 

In order to be considered for funding, applicant organizations must demonstrate that they:

  • Are operational. Programs must be currently serving learners and/or families. These are not planning grants for start-ups, these are for established organizations that are looking to launch a new pilot or program in fall 2021.
  • Are learner- or family-driven. Applicants must provide evidence that their program or pilot is directly responsive to learners’ or families’ needs. We support bottom-up, versus top-down, innovation.
  • Activate learners’, families’, and/or communities’ agency. Programs must position learners or families to customize an experience to what works best for them.
  • Have achieved proof of concept. Applicants must define what success looks like and provide evidence of indicators of success.
  • Have the potential to scale. Bridge grants are reserved for programs that have the potential to scale to serve learners and families in a much broader area. 

 

How do bridge grants differ from microgrants? 

Bridge grants and microgrants are meant for organizations at different stages. Microgrants are meant to support very early-stage ideas and enable everyday entrepreneurs to test custom solutions that better meet their own needs. Bridge grants are meant to support entrepreneurs who are further along in the implementation of their idea and are extending their solution to many new users or markets.

Current grantees: we anticipate that most microgrant recipients are at an earlier stage than the types of organizations we have in mind for bridge grants, but all current grantees are eligible to complete the pre-application process if they believe they meet the focus areas described above. Over time, we hope that many of our microgrant recipients will test ideas with our initial support and then be ready for a larger grant once they are further into their journey!

Here are a few examples of past bridge grant recipients:

  • Prenda expanded from Arizona to a second state, increasing the program’s accessibility to to low-income families and rural communities.
  • Nevada Action for School Options supported a network of microschools implemented through a unique public-private partnership between a municipality and local nonprofits.
  • Teton Science Schools piloted virtual components of their programming to increase access to high-quality learning experiences for mainly rural students.

How do I apply?

The bridge grant application process includes multiple steps:

  1. Interested applicants must submit a pre-application by Friday, July 23, 2021, at 5:00 p.m. EST.
  2. VELA will review pre-applications and invite select pre-applicants to submit a Full Application by Friday, August 6.
  3. Applicants who are invited to submit a Full Application will be provided a link, and must complete and submit the electronic application by no later than Friday, August 27, at 5pm EST.
  4. Applicants may be invited to participate in a virtual Applicant Interview. VELA will reach out to schedule virtual interviews in early September.
  5. VELA will announce bridge grant awards in September.