Nellie Mae Education Foundation

“We made a big switch, but we’re glad we did. We can finally keep track of our grants processes and where applications are in the cycle.” 

– Stephanie Cheney, Senior Grants Manager at the Nellie Mae Education Foundation

The Nellie Mae Education Foundation is New England’s largest philanthropy in New England dedicated exclusively to education. The foundation is committed to reshaping the high school learning experience by working with schools and organizations to implement the principles of student-centered learning – learning that is personalized, engaging, competency-based, and happens anytime, anywhere. Since 1998, the Foundation has distributed over $180 million in grants.


Until 2013, the Nellie Mae Education Foundation’s grants processes were mostly paper-based. Grant applications were emailed to the Foundation by grant seekers, printed by staff and physically moved around the office from one person to next. This made it difficult to track progress at any given time.

The Foundation used MicroEdge GIFTS as its data storage, but the system was only adopted by a handful of users. Overall, staff did not leverage data much, except for board meetings. Exporting data into spreadsheets, manually modifying formats, and entering additional data took staff two solid days of preparing for those meetings.

Thanks to Idealware’s annual Consumer’s Guide to Grants Management Systems, the Foundation discovered the possibility of other systems.


The Nellie Mae Education Foundation chose foundationConnect as its modern grants management solution and then found out about the endless opportunities on the Salesforce platform.

Today, foundationConnect is used by 30+ staff and Board members in different areas of the Foundation. Grants applications are no longer processed on paper – they are handled digitally through foundationConnect’s Grantee Portal. The Foundation also uses foundationConnect’s Reviewer Portal to track reviewer scores and comments. This information is now easily accessible to staff who use it to provide grant seekers feedback about applications that were declined.

Because the entire grants cycle is managed and processed in foundationConnect, grants staff has the ability to track progress at a click of a button. This makes it easy to give status updates as needed.

Data now serves a much greater aspect at the Foundation and staff reduced the time spent on reports. Stephanie Cheney, Senior Grants Manager at the Nellie Mae Education Foundation, says, “Where I would previously spend two solid days to get ready for a board meeting, I now only need an hour.”

In addition to foundationConnect, the Foundation also uses other Salesforce-based applications like DocuSign, SpringCM, and Pardot.

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