Thanks to Leonie Haimson for this item.

By and large, foundations do not make grants to for-profit enterprises. If you are seeking funds to start a for-profit business, please consult the resources below for more information. You might also consult the business section of your local public library, or economic development agencies in your city, county, or state.

Social enterprises

If your for-profit business has a strong social mission, it might be considered a social enterprise. Social enterprise, also known as social entrepreneurship, broadly encompasses ventures of nonprofits, civic-minded individuals, and for-profit businesses that can yield both financial and social returns.

A small but growing number of foundations may provide program-related investments (PRIs) to social enterprises as well as nonprofits. PRIs are low-interest loans that a foundation can give to organizations or projects that match the funder’s giving interests.

Liquid Interactive

Date: May 2014

Purpose: to fund development of a web-based tool to help improve students’ writing skills
Amount: $200,000
Term: 12
Topic: College-Ready
Program: United States
Grantee Location: Brisbane
Grantee Website:

Liquid Interactive creates engagement between businesses and customers using digital technologies. Combining strategy, creative and technology, we connect brands and products with audiences in a multiplatform communications environment to deliver business outcomes.

Marketing and education go hand in hand at Liquid Interactive and this unique value proposition assists us in developing strategies and solutions for behavioural change, consumer engagement, product education and information retention and recall.


Writelike is a platform designed to teach users how to write more effectively—in any style, for any purpose. It is based on a large library of text snippets taken from all manner of sources—novels, children’s stories, newspapers, magazines, instruction manuals. Learners are presented with snippets and asked to rewrite them in different styles, and in so doing they learn differences of form and craft.

Writelike is one of Liquid Interactive’s internal, experimental projects that we are hoping to develop in the near future into something usable in Australian schools.

LightSIDE Labs LLC
Date: March 2014
Purpose: to develop a system that automatically assesses and gives feedback on student writing, and supports the revision process for students
Amount: $200,000
Term: 13
Topic: College-Ready
Program: United States
Grantee Location: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Grantee Website:

Automated Support for Student Writing
Educational technology is failing to provide tools for writing in the classroom in a way that benefits actual teachers. The current practices of automated essay scoring are focused heavily on summative, standardized testing. When they do give formative feedback, it emphasizes mechanics and grammar over content and literary awareness of elements like genre, audience awareness, and argumentation. That’s not enough – especially with the upcoming shift to Common Core and the increased workload it represents. LightSide is developing tools that really work in schools, based on conversations with teachers and direct classroom experience. Our mission is to improve writing skills. We’re doing that with our flagship writing platform, the Revision Assistant, and with our automated scoring product, LightBox, which provides truly customizable and open access to the education industry.

April 2012: LightSide’s automated essay scoring engine was proven reliable in a study commisioned by Smarter Balanced and PARCC in a bake-off competition hosted on Read more about the competition.

Automated scoring of student essays is fast, accurate, and affordable. That was the conclusion drawn from two prize competitions sponsored by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. ASAP began in February of 2012 with a demonstration of capabilities of the eight largest testing vendors. The “bake off” was hosted on the Kaggle platform and, as Mark Shermis and Ben Hamner reported, demonstrated that current scoring engines could match expert graders across eight sets of essays. A case study, “Automated Student Assessment Prize Phase One and Phase Two: A Case Study to Promote Focused Innovation in Student Writing Assessment,” was published in January.

Perhaps the biggest surprise of the ASAP competitions was the stunning performance of LightSide, an open scoring engine developed at Carnegie Mellon University. Grad student Elijah Mayfield and the open source code held their own against testing companies and data scientists from around the world.