Nellie Mae Grant to Support Educational Initiatives in the Northeast

New Funding For Education Initiatives

Women’s Funding Network Utilizes $45,000 Nellie Mae Grant to Support Educational Initiatives in the Northeast

Eight women’s funds across four states are using the investment to grow local programs that further education for women and girls.

The Women’s Funding Network (WFN), the world’s largest philanthropic alliance for gender equity, received $45,000 in funding in 2022 from the Nellie Mae Education Foundation to support their New England members’ efforts in building sustainable access to equitable and excellent education. The Nellie Mae Education Foundation, founded over 30 years ago, is New England’s largest philanthropic organization focused solely on education. Notably, the Foundation uses its power and privilege as a philanthropic institution to advance racial equity.

Across the region, WFN members are active in the education space, working to improve access and quality across the early childhood, primary, secondary, post-secondary, and adult education communities. They are supporting education programs for refugees and immigrants, creating women’s leadership and youth mentorship programs, launching financial literacy programs, and advocating for improvements in childcare policy so moms can return to school. This grant funding gives WFN an opportunity to further crucial support work that’s already being done by organizations that have demonstrated a track record for impact and success.

“In this day and age where women’s rights are being overturned and questioned, it is important that the Foundation supports efforts that advance the education and leadership of women and girls while continuing to challenge systemic inequities, particularly for women and girls who hold marginalized identities,” says Julita Bailey-Vasco, acting chief communications officer at The Nellie Mae Education Foundation. “We are thankful for the good work that the Women’s Funding Network does and are proud to partner with them in this way.”

Using a participatory grantmaking progress, WFN is pleased to announce that we’ve awarded $5,625 each to eight organizations doing exemplary work to further educational initiatives that directly impact the education of women and girls through a gender and racial equity justice lens.

Read on to learn more about the work our grantees are doing:

The Women’s Fund of Western MA: These funds will help support their Young Women’s Initiative, which centers young women of color and gender expansive youth. The program has been running for more than six years, and participants receive education on civic engagement, philanthropy, and leadership. Their Blueprint for Action chronicles the first years of this program and its impact.

Aurora Women and Girls Foundation: The Aurora Foundation currently focuses its grant making on its Hartford, CT-area Women’s College Success programs, which offers innovative support that addresses the needs of low income women, women of color, and first-generation students as they pursue higher education and careers that pay a family-sustaining wage. Their Aurora-funded College Success programs have served 245 women a year and 68% of those students are women of color (63.5% are Pell Grant eligible). Increasing higher education graduation rates for Black, Latina, and immigrant women have been shown to correlate with higher earning potential, a strategy that is effective in breaking the cycle of poverty and addressing gender and racial pay and wealth gaps.

Women’s Fund of Rhode Island: In 2023, Women’s Fund of Rhode Island will be working with college-aged women to provide training in self-advocacy (for example, through salary negotiation training) and legislative advocacy. They also run a Women’s Policy Institute, a nine-month leadership in advocacy training program. Several women who have completed the program have said their participation specifically led to their ability to get paid policy-related work in the state and/or to their interest in running for elected office.

Women’s Foundation of Boston: This grant will be evenly divided between the three tuition-free, all-girl middle schools which the Women’s Foundation of Boston proudly funds: Mother Caroline Academy (Dorchester), Our Sisters’ School (New Bedford), and Esperanza Academy (Lawrence). All three schools provide outstanding educational and enrichment opportunities for girls in low-income, under-resourced communities. The Women’s Foundation of Boston has provided several transformative grants to these schools, including funding for STEM expansion, math curriculum development, and remediation learning. The vast majority of the girls at these schools are BIPOC and 100% live in very low-income situations. 

Fairfield County’s Community Foundation: In Connecticut, funding will be used to support one of Fairfield County’s Community Foundation partners, Mercy Learning Center, which runs a two-generation education program for women and young children in Bridgeport, Connecticut.

Boston Women’s Fund: Boston Women’s Fund (BWF) is an intermediary fund investing in grassroots organizations led by women, girls, and gender-expansive individuals working toward racial, economic, social, and gender justice. Together, we strive to achieve our vision of a world where power, opportunity, and access exist for those persistently marginalized, regardless of gender identity or gender expression. BWF is in its third year of the Anna Faith Jones & Frieda Garcia Women of Color Leadership Circle. This program, designed by a team of women of color leaders, is a six-month cohort program facilitated by the Interaction Institute for Social Change. As a nontraditional leadership program, it is grounded in cultural competency that adjusts programing to align with the interests of each cohort. The program creates a space for women of color leaders to build bonds, learn with and from each other, and unpack the harm that white supremacy culture has done.

Metrowest Women’s Fund: The grant will help support The Fund for Single Mother Students at Community College that was created to support non-tuition emergency needs that help keep single mothers from dropping out of school. Even before the pandemic, many community college students struggled with food and housing insecurity as well as transit and child-care challenges. The Metrowest Women’s Fund created a new emergency fund at MassBay Community College with a $25,000 seed grant to assist single mother students at risk of leaving school. These funds provide financial aid for non-tuition-related emergencies the students may encounter while pursuing their degrees. Non-tuition-related items include childcare expenses, housing costs, transportation, and other living expenses. It is estimated that 52 students currently enrolled could benefit from this program.For these remarkable single mothers, the funds will make a tremendous difference in helping them overcome the sizable challenge of managing their life expenses while they pursue the education that can transform their lives and the lives of their children.

New Hampshire Women’s Foundation: Their education program focuses on their Women Run and Women Lead programs. Their Women Run program is the state’s only nonpartisan program empowering and training women to run for local and state office. Their Women Lead program is a mentoring program for women serving in office. They launched Women Run in 2017 and have had incredible success with 90% of their Women Run alums winning primaries and 50% of their alums winning their elections. Their overarching goals for our Women Run and Women Lead is to change the political landscape in the Granite State by dramatically increasing the number of women in elected office. More elected women means more women having seats at the table and therefore the lived experiences of women and families are part of the conversation.

Capacity Building Philanthropy Press release