The winners (those who get funded) are the people who can make an emotional connection to people who are driven by data. Get your story down. - Cordell Carter

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Our guest today is Cordell Carter. We had a fascinating conversation about the funding landscape for K12 education. Cordell is an entrepreneurial leader, nationally recognized for cross-sector successes in philanthropy, education, and technology. He is currently leading the Aspen Institute Socrates Program, a global education forum for emerging leaders. He has previously held leadership roles with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Business Roundtable, National Alliance for Public Charter Schools and the IBM Corporation.

In this episode, Cordell takes us into the heart and soul of philanthropic funding and gives us a glimpse into the mindset of those who hold the purse-strings. He tells school leaders where to look, how to plan, and how to demonstrate results that will attract grants.

Listen and take note of how getting your “story” right might be the most important piece in positioning your school to receive philanthropic attention. If you have ever thought about grant funding for your school, or are even interested in the evolving strategy of foundations and others in education, Cordell has a deep understanding of what’s going on. So, here he is.

In our discussion, we cover:

00:25 Andrew asks Cordell, “What is your overall picture or vision of how philanthropy in education is evolving?”

09:20 Cordell responds to Andrew’s question about the benefits of moving from a non-profit to a venture capital mindset. He describes a recent trend of certain grantmakers to establish limited liability corporations.

12:55 Andrew asks, “What else should school leaders know for their own benefit about how this philanthropic system is evolving?”

15:48 Cordell shares about the kind of results that investors are looking for and how a school can anticipate that and prepare to show the right outcome measures when they are planning their program.

17:26 Andrew asks Cordell to talk a bit about how the funding process works.

21:17 Cordell comments on whether schools are best served by targeting local foundations and grant providers or “the big names”.

22:58 Andrew relates that schools often ask, “Isn’t funding and grant money only available for the high-needs schools or the struggling communities?”

24:00 Andrew asks Cordell to talk about his experience at TechTown Chattanooga and the fundraising success he had there, and to share any parallels he might be able to draw to K12 if someone needed to raise money for a school.

30:55 Cordell and Andrew discuss the way that storytelling and entrepreneurship impact the grantmaking process.

33:10 Andrew asks Cordell for any parting thoughts.


6:07 “People love winners. I’m going to fund people who don’t need me - meaning, you’re already figuring out a way to achieve in spite of a lack of resources.

10:15 “The one thing you can’t replicate is time… you either make more use of it, or you can’t.

15:14 “The big trend to watch for is this move toward an investment approach; foundations are changing to limited liability corporations.

23:40 “I like to think of foundation funds as strategic funds (used) to expand a promising practice or to highlight something that’s unique.

32:10 “The winners (those who get funded) are the people who can make an emotional connection to people who are driven by data. Get your story down.

Here are some resources mentioned in our discussion:

Arnold Ventures

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative

Teach for America

Where to learn more about Cordell Carter:

At Aspen Institute -

Twitter - @cordellcarterii

Carter on Linkedin

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