Grant Opportunity for Digital Badging

Calling all educational providers! Have you heard of the Nellie Mae Education Foundation? If so, great! We’d like to inform you of an exciting grant opportunity of up to $100,000 that you may be able to take advantage of. If you haven’t heard of them, you’re about to! The deadline for the grant application is July 15th, so read on, friends!

The Nellie Mae Education Foundation, (NMEF for short) is the largest philanthropy in New England, dedicated exclusively to education. As such, NMEF strives to help stimulate change of public education systems across New England by helping to grow a variety of higher quality educational opportunities that enable all learners — especially underserved learners — to obtain the skills, knowledge, and support necessary to becoming civically engaged, economically self-sufficient life-long learners.

All of that is to say, NMEF is doing some great work, and they’ve just recently — in 2015 — rolled out an ambitious plan to better, more expeditiously catalyze educational improvement for New England students. But first, before we dive into a brief description of the initiative, here are some startling statistics to better contextualize what the NMEF is trying to do.

  1. Did you know that currently, in New England, only 50% of students (32% of low-income students) who enter high school as freshman will graduate ready?
  2. At our current rate of improvement, it would take 100 years to reach 80% readiness in New England.
  3. How about 100%? At our current rate of improvement, it would take approximately 170 years to reach 100% readiness in New England.

Now, even though these statistics are a bit sobering, let’s talk about what’s being done about them. As mentioned above, a plan is underway to help improve the rate of readiness to 80% by the year 2030; that would be about 75 years off of the predicted 100 years’ time for New England to achieve an 80% readiness rate. Currently, there are four initiatives that are a part of a 5-year plan to kickstart the 2030 readiness goal:

  1. Build Public Understanding and Demand
  2. Develop Effective Systems Designs
  3. Build Educator Ownership, Leadership, and Capacity
  4. And, Advance Quality and Rigor of Student-Centered Practices

More about these initiatives can be read on Nellie Mae’s website, and their call for Letters of Intent for Digital Badging, but for the purview of this blog post, we’re going to be focusing on the development of “effective systems designs”.

A major project of the “effective systems” initiative is to promote, implement, and sustain student-centered learning (SCL) approaches at the secondary school and district level. Since 2011, the Nellie Mae Foundation has provided grants to 14 different districts in New England that share the aspiration of student-centered learning approaches, and they’re actively searching for more organization and education providers to award grants to!

Specifically, the NMEF are currently interested in organizations and education providers that are utilizing digital badging as a way to encourage student-centered learning. For those New England organizations that are working with secondary school levels (grades 9-12) and leveraging digital badging, the Foundation will look for the following criteria in the applications for a grant:

  • Expertise and history of work in digital badging
  • Potential for work to catalyze systems of change for student centered learning
  • Explicit strategies to ensure that underserved students achieve deeper learning outcomes and to promote increased readiness for all students
  • Understanding of NMEF’s mission and definition of student-centered learning and of college and career readiness challenges

Do any of these criteria apply to you and your organization? If so, apply today! Letters of intent are due by July 15th, and can be started and submitted on the Nellie Mae Education Foundation’s grant and sponsorship request portal.

Do you have any questions about the application process? If so, email Lucas Orwig, at

Was this post helpful? We hope so! If you have any questions, concerns, comments, or just want to talk about your experience with digital badging, and educational opportunities in Maine, feel free to email us! As always, we’d love to chat. Thanks, everyone! 🙂