Eligibility Criteria

Learn more about what we’re looking for.

What is the VELA Founder Network and is a Micro grant a fit for me and my organization?  

The VELA Founder Network is the nation’s leading community of entrepreneurs providing alternatives to conventional schooling. We believe that sustainable change in education will come from the ground up. Parents should be empowered to lead their children’s educational journey and founders should be empowered to deliver dynamic education solutions for families.  

The founders in the VELA Network are building sustainable businesses that revolutionize education either by operating small learning environments or by offering direct service and support for the unconventional schooling space. VELA accelerates the exploration of new frontiers in education by providing early capital, access to a thriving community of entrepreneurs, and connections to resources and support. Through the VELA Founder Network, founders have exclusive access to funding opportunities, resources, events, and the collective knowledge of thousands of entrepreneurs across the country.  


Successful Founder Network applicants are those that operate small learning environments or programs offering direct services and support for the unconventional schooling space. Please note that founders who have previously received a VELA Micro grant are not eligible to apply for additional Micro grant funding.

Below are our non-negotiables — the things founders and organizations must meet to be considered:  

  • U.S.-based individuals or organizations.
  • Publicly verifiable presence through a website, media stories, and/or social media accounts. 
  • Education-first focus, prioritizing education over other agendas. 
  • Currently serving or actively enrolling customers (learners, families, or founders), or plans to serve them within the next 6 to 12 months. 
  • Meet a qualifying charitable purpose.

The following are not a fit:

  • International organizations.
  • Traditional public, private, and charter schools.
  • Daycare or early childhood programs. 
  • Organizations with programs designed for conventional school systems or students enrolled in conventional schools (traditional public, private, and charter schools).

Additionally, when considering organizations for funding, we prioritize those which:

  • Operate businesses where customers contribute resources (financial, time, space, labor, etc.).
  • Have an opportunity to expand their reach by serving more learners, families, or founders or adding new programs.
  • Are resourceful in their approach to long-term sustainability.
  • Demonstrate that their program is an essential component of their community’s unconventional schooling ecosystem.

I’m Ready to Apply! 

If you’ve read through our criteria and decided that the VELA Founder Network is aligned with your work, we’d love to learn more about it! As of April 2024, you can apply to join the VELA Founder Network and apply for a Micro grant at the same time. The application includes single and multiple-choice questions and written responses.  

For purposes of the application, please list the name of the organization applying to join the VELA Founder Network. If you have not yet formally established an organizational entity, that’s okay; please use the name that people call your program as the organization name. Related, the “founder” of the organization is either the individual(s) who first created the organization and/or the person who leads the organization currently. This person will be the main participant in the VELA Founder Network and who we’ll reach out to if we have questions about the application.  

We recommend filling out the live application in one sitting. If you are unable to submit at once, you can save your work. To save your application in progress, choose “save” in the form options at which point a link will be emailed to you. We recommend using this method versus creating a JotForm account. 

How We Evaluate Applications 

In each application cycle, we receive a high volume of applications, far more than we can fund. To determine which applications best align with our mission, we thoroughly review each submission.  

At VELA we are more than just a funder; we are committed to catalyzing a vibrant alternative education ecosystem. Our application process provides us with insight into the role your organization plays in the alternative education ecosystem, whether as a small learning environment or an ecosystem builder. We encourage you to be honest and authentic in your application – help us get to know you and your work! 

Wait – I Need More Help! 

We’re happy to help. However, due to the large volume of applications we receive over the course of each grant cycle, we are unable to provide direct guidance on whether you should apply or whether you are a fit. We encourage all interested applicants to carefully review the eligibility criteria, guidelines, and supporting materials and apply their judgement regarding their alignment to VELA.  

For additional insights, we encourage applicants to explore the rest of our website for resources and insight into the organizations and founders we typically support.  

If you have reviewed the website and application resources, but still have lingering questions, please complete and submit this form and a member of our team will respond within 3 business days.  

The application will close on Monday, April 22nd at 5pm. We will communicate decisions as soon as possible.