Writing Grant Applications

The ALA Public Programs Office offers grants for several different programs from traveling exhibitions to discussion programs involving books, film, and cassette tapes to literary programs and other forms of library cultural programs for adults. All of these programs have different requirements and different goals, but their main purpose is to help libraries become centers for culture in their communities.

Participation in all Public Programs Office programs is open to libraries in the U.S. and its territories through a competitive application process. Calls for applications appear in the major U.S. library trade magazines and journals, as well as on the Public Programs Office Web site.

Making your application competitive:

  1. Applications that have been thoroughly prepared stand out to reviewers. Spend time writing the application, thinking of ideas for programs, and lining up support in the library and in the community, and you will see better results in both the application process and when developing and implementing the program.

  2. Read the application carefully and answer all questions directly and with as much detail as possible. Pay particular attention to requirements mentioned in the application. For example, our Jazz Age in Paris application specifically mentioned that programs consisting only of musical performances were not considered humanities programs as defined by the program funder. Therefore, libraries that submitted applications that only offered musical performances as the required humanities program did not receive grants.

  3. Think beyond the boundaries of normal library operating procedure in completing your application. If your application states that you plan to publicize a program through all of the normal channels and rely on an audience that already attends programs or focus on standard program formats, it will not compare favorably with one that offers new publicity strategies to attract new audiences, presents creative ideas for programs, and demonstrates that the library will approach this project with a fresh outlook in order to make it a success.

  4. Submit letters of support from groups you mention in your application and plan to work with on the project. Libraries are encouraged to enlist the support of community organizations in presenting these programs. Their presence adds weight to your application and shows that you are committed to making the program succeed.

  5. If you use statistics to describe your service area, your targeted audience, or any other part of the proposal, be sure you indicate where they were obtained or use reasonable estimates and indicate their basis.

  6. Think through the answers to each question on the application. Be careful not to restate the question and make sure that each answer provides detail and shows your commitment to the program.

  7. Provide all signatures and attachments requested. In particular, if a scholar is required for a project, you must submit a scholar's resume with your application, or it will be considered incomplete.

  8. Pay close attention to your application's appearance, clarity, enthusiasm, spelling, and organization. Ask yourself: if I were the reviewer, what would be my impression of this proposal? Would I find it easy to follow and understand? Would I be excited by the programs proposed? Use bold face type, bullets, italics, and other devices to make points and help organize your proposal, but be careful not to overdo it. Use simple, direct sentences. Check and double-check spelling. Convey your own excitement about the project.

  9. Read the original application carefully after you have completed your proposal to be sure you have answered all questions, are submitting the attachments required, have all signatures, and have met other requirements.

  10. If you have questions as you are completing an application, contact the ALA Public Programs Office at publicprograms@ala.org or 800-545-2433, ext. 5045, and ask us--we are happy to help you.