Certell Inc.



Indianapolis, IN

Tax ID:


Tax-Exempt Status:


Budget (2021):

Revenue: $3,776,638
Expenses: $3,270,040
Assets: $2,701,221


Digital learning provider



President and CEO:

Frederic Fransen

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Certell is a digital learning organization that focus on creating independent and lifelong learners through dynamic learning programs that provide digital content to home schoolers, traditional schools, workplaces, and prisons. 1

Certell’s primary initiatives are Poptential, SensibleSchool, and Huntington Junior College. 2


Poptential is a free suite of dynamic learning courses geared towards high school students. The courses, focused on social studies, combine pop culture media with digital storytelling in subjects such government, economics, and American and world history. Poptential aims to be nonbiased, and provides nonpartisan and non-ideological mini-lessons on controversial subjects like race and social class when relevant. 3

SensibleSchool provides low cost, dynamic learning to teens and adults through a variety of digital courses. Geared towards home schools, workplaces, and prisons, SensibleSchool offers a variety of courses that include social studies, civics, and personal finance. 4 SensibleSchool’s Civics Education in Prison program intends to transform the attitude of student inmates to create a better understanding of their role in society, along with their obligations and duties to society. The curriculum includes civics, ethics, economics, and literature. 5

Huntington Junior College is an open-admission, private institution based in Huntington, West Virginia. HJC promotes academic excellence and prepares students for employment and lifelong learning. HJC offers eight associate’s degree programs: accounting, business management, administrative technology, dental assisting, medical assisting, medical coding, court reporting, and substance abuse counseling. 6  Huntington Junior College focuses on successful student outcomes and assists in making financial decisions regarding education and offers graduates free job seeking assistance and the opportunity to refresh previously trained skills at no charge. 7


Certell is funded by donations from individuals, foundations, and corporations. While Certell does not disclose other donors, tax filings confirm donations from Donors Trust ($2.6 million in 2019), 8 the Sarah Scaife Foundation ($200,000 in 2020), 9 and the Diana Davis Spencer Foundation ($50,000 in 2019). 10

Board of Directors

Dennis Trinkle is the chair of the boards of Certell and SensibleSchool. 11

Fred Fransen is the CEO and co-founder of Certell. Fransen formerly worked as the executive director of the Center for Excellence in Higher Education and the director of higher education programs at the Philanthropy Roundtable, and is a former senior fellow at the Liberty Fund. 12

Sheree Speakman is the vice chair of the board of the National Charter Schools Institute. 13

Dominique Lazanski sits on the advisory board of Global Partners Digital. Lazanski is a former member of the Global Internet Strategy Project National Advisory Board at the American Enterprise Institute, a former senior fellow at the Adam Smith Institute, and a former head of digital policy at the TaxPayers’ Alliance. 14

Other members of the board include Jay Utterback, treasurer, and Stephen Farris. 15


  1. “About.” Certell. Accessed November 14, 2022.
  2. “About.” Certell. Accessed November 14, 2022.
  3. Home.” Poptential. 2022. Accessed November 14, 2022.
  4. “About.” Certell. Accessed November 14, 2022.
  5. “Civics Education in Prison.” SensibleSchool. Accessed November 14, 2022.
  6. “History.” Huntington Junior College. 2022. Accessed November 14, 2022.
  7. “Why HJC.” Huntington Junior College. 2022. Accessed November 14, 2022.
  8. Donors Trust, Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax (Form 990), 2019, Schedule I, Part II.
  9. Sarah Scaife Foundation, Return of Private Foundation (Form 990-PF), 2020, Part XV, Line 3.
  10. Diana Davis Spencer Foundation, Return of Private Foundation (Form 990-PF), 2019, Part XV, Line 3.
  11. “Dennis Trickle.” LinkedIn. 2022. Accessed November 10, 2022.
  12. “Frederic Fransen.” LinkedIn. 2022. Accessed November 10, 2022.
  13. “Our Board.” National Charter Schools Institute. 2022. Accessed November 10, 2022.
  14. “Dominique Lazanski.” LinkedIn. 2022. Accessed November 14, 2022.
  15. “About.” Certell. Accessed November 14, 2022.
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Nonprofit Information

  • Accounting Period: June - May
  • Tax Exemption Received: December 1, 2013

  • Available Filings

    Period Form Type Total revenue Total functional expenses Total assets (EOY) Total liabilities (EOY) Unrelated business income? Total contributions Program service revenue Investment income Comp. of current officers, directors, etc. Form 990
    2021 Jun Form 990 $3,776,638 $3,270,040 $2,701,221 $405,417 N $3,763,500 $9,600 $3,538 $166,660
    2020 Jun Form 990 $2,119,005 $2,456,205 $1,897,811 $108,605 N $1,999,500 $112,500 $6,716 $278,082 PDF
    2019 Jun Form 990 $2,966,463 $1,347,106 $2,189,076 $62,670 N $2,963,005 $91 $3,097 $260,119 PDF
    2018 Jun Form 990 $1,218,668 $1,101,015 $539,582 $32,533 N $1,212,363 $5,330 $1,468 $235,670 PDF
    2017 Jun Form 990 $789,708 $840,248 $431,999 $42,603 N $782,324 $3,791 $2,096 $241,159
    2016 Jun Form 990 $579,746 $1,110,403 $456,323 $78,887 N $575,274 $2,901 $1,362 $20,969
    2015 Jun Form 990 $950,100 $42,007 $913,593 $5,500 N $950,100 $0 $0 $0 PDF

    Certell Inc.

    Indianapolis, IN