Nellie Mae Education Foundation

OVERVIEW: This funder focuses on racial equity in K-12 education by emphasizing student-centered learning. Geographically, NMEF’s focus is on the six New England states.

FUNDING AREAS: K-12 education, racial equity in education, student-centered learning

IP TAKE: This is a transparent funder that makes a point to share details about its strategy with grantseekers and the general public. Make sure your grant pitches have a racial equity focus.

PROFILE: The Nellie Mae Education Foundation (NMEF) is a New England-focused funder based in Quincy, Massachusetts. The foundation was established in 1990 and is the largest public charity solely focused on education in the New England states. It was established by the Nellie Mae Corporation, a nonprofit education financing company and has set a goal of getting 80 percent of New England students ready for college and career by the year 2030.

In 2014, the foundation developed four new initiatives: Build Public Understanding and Demand, Build Educator Ownership, Leadership, and Capacity, Develop Effective Systems Designs, and Advance Quality and Rigor of Student-Centered Practices. More recently, this funder underwent a strategic review of its grantmaking and shifted its focus to racial equity.

Throughout its history, NMEF has favored grantees that reject a top-down, one-size-fits-all approach to learning and engages students in various ways to cater to their needs and skills. Personalized learning, competency-based learning, learning beyond the traditional classroom, and helping students take ownership of their learning processes are common themes of NMEF grantmaking. Going forward, NMEF is looking for ways to engage low-income students and students of colors in new ways to overcome racial disparities and discrepancies in college and career outcomes. High school-level student-centered approaches have been getting the bulk of this funder’s attention.

Grantees include Educate Maine, Data for Black Lives, the Connecticut Forum, and the Boston Chinatown Neighborhood Center. Many grants have been between $5,000 and $75,000. You can search for other previously awarded grants here. Grants are typically limited to groups in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Maine.

The NMEF website provides information about open grant opportunities, and you can sign up for an email list to get updates about grant-related news. The funder welcomes brief synopses about your relevant work. Those can be emailed to

General inquiries and questions about grant opportunities can be directed to Program Officer Ellen Wang at The phone number is (781) 348-4200, and the address is 1250 Hancock Street, Suite 710N, Quincy, Massachusetts, 02169. The foundation president and CEO is Nicholas C. Donohue, and Mary Sylvia Harrison is the vice president for programs. Keep up with recent foundation news, hiring announcements, and staff blog posts in the funder’s news section.


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