American Dream Literacy Initiative - Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

Application Questions

Preparing your application

Q. May I preview the grant application before completing it?

A. Yes. You may download a PDF of the application for reference; the application process is also covered in detail in the guidelines.

Q. May applications be submitted in hard copy?

A. No. Applications must be submitted online by 11:59 pm (CST) on January 29, 2021. Applications that are late or incomplete will not be reviewed.

Q. This is my first time applying for a grant through Foundant. How do I use the system?

A: For more information about using Foundant, our grants management system, please visit our How to Apply webpage.

Q. Our library is closed/limited capacity due to COVID-19. How should we answer application questions asking for numbers (average monthly attendance, number of volunteers, etc.)?

A. We recognize that COVID-19 has likely dramatically impacted your library attendance and programming. Please use the narrative section of the application to provide context for the numbers you supply so that we have an understanding of what your capacity is/was, how your library has adapted to delivering literacy services during the pandemic, and/or how these funds will help meet service needs.

Q. Do we need to collaborate with partner organizations to be eligible to apply for this grant?

A. As part of the application, you will be required to submit two letters of support from community partners. Applications will be more competitive if they demonstrate a strong connection to the community, and there will be opportunities in the application to describe any plans for working with community partners to market, implement, or sustain the grant programs.

Q. Who should my letters of support be addressed to?

A. You can address any letters of support to the ALA Public Programs Office.

Q. What do you mean by certifying official?

A. The certifying official who signs off on your application should be anyone with your library who is able to submit applications for funding on behalf of the institution. This may vary depending on the institution but is typically the library director.

Q. Can the certifying official be the same person as the project director and/or the person submitting the application?

A. Yes. The certifying official can be the same person listed as the project director and/or the person submitting the proposal as long as they are able to submit applications for funding on behalf of their institution.

Q. Can I edit my application after it has been submitted?

A. No. Applications cannot be edited after they are submitted.


Q. What types of libraries are eligible?

A. This opportunity is open to any public library in the U.S. and U.S. territories that is located within 20 miles of a Dollar General Store, distribution center, or corporate office (please visit the Dollar General's Store Locator online)

Q. My library has previously received an American Dream Literacy Initiative grant. Can we apply again?

A. Previous American Dream Literacy Initiative grant recipients are eligible to apply for an additional year of funding, with a limit of two consecutive rounds of funding. Once a library receives two consecutive rounds of funding, the library must skip one round of funding before they are eligible to apply again (i.e.: for this grant cycle, libraries that received the grant in 2018 and 2019 would not be eligible). If you are submitting a second application for funding, be sure to discuss the impact of your first grant in the proposal.

Q. My library has multiple branches interested in submitting a proposal, can branches apply individually or should we submit a single application?

A. Branches within the same library system may submit individual applications as long as their institution meets the eligibility requirements. However, please note that this may mean that the applications are competing against each other.

Q. My library already offers adult literacy programs. Can we still apply?

A. Yes, the American Dream Literacy Initiative can be used to add new adult literacy programs or to expand existing programs and services.

Timeline/Review Process

Q. How many grants will be awarded?

A. Sixteen libraries will be selected to receive the grant.

Q. How will my library’s proposal be reviewed?

A. Proposals will be assessed by a panel of library workers and ALA project staff. ALA will make the final decisions based on peer reviewer feedback, and other possible considerations, such as geographic distribution.

Q. How will I be notified about the status of my application?

A. You will receive a confirmation email as soon as your application is submitted. All applicants will be notified of their award status via email by February 17, 2021.

Award Information and Grant Requirements

Q. What will my library receive if selected for the American Dream Literacy Initiative grant?

A. Libraries will receive a $5,000 grant to support costs related to their adult literacy services/programs or collections. Project directors will also receive professional development training through a series of online sessions covering topics related to library programming.

Q. What will be required if my library is selected?

A. In addition to developing, implementing, and evaluating your project, grantees will be required to gather participant evaluations using the Public Library Association’s Project Outcome impact measurement tools; submit a comprehensive final report to ALA with project accomplishments and impact, and use of funds; and participate in evaluation efforts by an independent evaluation firm. A minimum of one library staff must attend and participate in the four online learning sessions. Libraries may also be asked to contribute resources for the American Dream webpage, sharing your insights and best practices.

Q. Can I use the $5,000 to purchase PPE? What about hotspots/platform upgrades/etc.?

A. American Dream Literacy Initiative grant funds are restricted to project related expenses. These may include, but are not limited to:

  • Purchase of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and supplies for use at literacy programs
  • Purchase of collection materials and/or ebook licenses
  • Tech equipment or software (e.g. virtual meeting licenses, iPads, Wi-Fi hotspots, etc.)
  • Library staff time, contractors, teachers, and tutors
  • Additional literacy training for library staff
  • Payment to project partners for reimbursement or direct funding of services and support provided (e.g. childcare providers, translators, instructors, co-facilitator, etc.)
  • Promotion and publicity (e.g. videos for training and PR, website development, etc.)

Q. Are there any ineligible expenses for the grant funds?

A. Yes. Grant funds may not be used to support indirect costs (e.g. general library administrative expenses) or bookmobile maintenance.

Q. Can the programs/services my library develops for the grant be offered virtually? Do you have any resources for getting started with virtual programming?

A. Yes! Libraries may want to use the grant to develop virtual programs for adult audiences or expand accessibility of online services or collections. The ALA Pandemic Preparedness page and the Programming Librarian website both offer resource lists with suggested webinars, articles, program models, and more related to virtual programming.

Q. Do the adult literacy programs offered through this grant have to be English language learning classes?

A. No, programs offered through the American Dream Literacy Initiative could be English language classes, but could also include basic education or workforce development, such as GED classes, citizenship classes, or job training.

Additional Questions

Q. I have additional questions about my application. Who can I contact?

A. Call the ALA Public Programs Office with any application or grant-related questions: (312) 280-5045 or toll free at (800) 545-2433 x 5045. You can also send an e-mail to