American Dream Literacy Initiative Guidelines

American Dream Literacy Initiative logoDate Posted: Monday, November 2, 2020
Deadline for Submission: Friday, January 29, 2021 (11:59 CST)
Award Notification Date: Wednesday, February 17, 2021
Grant Period: Monday, March 15 – Wednesday, December 15, 2021
Apply Online via Foundant
Estimated Time to Complete Application: 1 hour form completion; 7-9 hours research, writing, and preparation


Before starting, read the grant FAQ and carefully review the requirements below in each category for the grant.

Contact the American Library Association (ALA) Public Programs Office staff at 1-800-545-2433, ext. 5045, or

Table of Contents

  1. Purpose of the Grant
  2. Eligibility
  3. Award Information
  4. Eligible Expenses
  5. Requirements
  6. Application and Submission Information
  7. Application Review and Selection Process
  8. Grant Administration Information
  9. Points of Contact

Purpose of the Grant

To help public libraries in Dollar General communities add or expand literacy services for adult English language learners and/or adults in need of basic education and workforce development, each funded library will receive a one-time grant of $5,000 to develop collections and services for adult learners and/or expand existing programs, add services, and foster community partnerships.

Funded projects allow libraries to develop collections, add new services or programs, or expand existing services or programs for adult learners. Libraries may choose to use the grant to:

  • Augment their print and digital ESL collections
  • Increase computer/internet access and training
  • Provide job training
  • Hold ELL, GED, and citizenship classes
  • Implement virtual or in-person programs for adult literacy learners
  • Raise the visibility of services for immigrant populations

The American Dream Literacy Initiative is made possible through the generous support of the Dollar General Literacy Foundation.


  • A public library with a demonstrated need and the capacity to provide literacy services for adult English language learners and/or adults in need of basic education and workforce development.
  • Located within 20 miles of a Dollar General Store, distribution center, or corporate office (please visit the Dollar General's Store Locator online to confirm that your library is within a 20 mile radius).
  • 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.

Award Information

Sixteen public libraries with demonstrated need and capacity to provide adult literacy services will be selected to receive the American Dream Literacy Initiative Grant. Grantees will receive:

  • $5,000 to support costs related to their adult literacy services/programs or collections
  • Professional development consisting of a series of webinars covering topics related to grant implementation, including marketing/outreach and evaluation

Eligible Expenses

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

  • Purchase of Personal Protective Equipment and supplies
  • Purchase of collection materials (print, digital, software, and online resources)
  • Tech equipment (e.g. virtual meeting licenses, iPads, Wi-Fi hotspots, etc.)
  • Project supplies (e.g. markers, index cards, post-its, etc.)
  • Library staff time, contractors, teachers, and tutors
  • Payment to project partners for reimbursement or direct funding of services and support provided (e.g. childcare providers, translators, instructors, co-facilitator, etc.)
  • Additional literacy training for library staff (e.g. state and regional library literacy conferences, etc.)
  • Promotion and publicity (e.g. videos for training and PR, website development, etc.)

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

For reference, a sample project budget might include: $4,300 for Technology ($3,000 to purchase laptops for self-paced learning; $1,000 to purchase hotspots for check-out by adult English Language Learners, and $300 for 2 Zoom Pro licenses), $500 for Personnel to pay virtual tutors, and $200 for Printing, Design and Distribution to promote the program.


Grantees make the following commitments:

Spending and Reporting

  • Spend or allocate grant funds within 180 days of receipt.
  • Submit a comprehensive final report to ALA with project accomplishments and impact, use of funds, per the deadline in the Grant Agreement.
  • Submit any requests for budget variances or extensions in writing to ALA.

Collaboration and Sustainability

  • A minimum of one library staff must attend and participate in the following project support online learning sessions:
    • Cohort orientation
    • Measuring Success Using PLA's Project Outcome
    • Media Training
    • Reporting and Evaluation

Information Sharing and Marketing

  • Develop a communications plan for your project
  • Contribute resources for the American Dream webpage, sharing your insights and best practices implemented by your library
  • Acknowledge funders and promote the American Dream Literacy Initiative, including the ALA logo and the Dollar General logo, as stipulated in the Grant Agreement
  • Inform local and statewide library networks about the ALA/Dollar General grant and your specific project
  • Inform your local Dollar General store about the ALA grant and your project

Application and Submission Information

ALA will accept applications for the American Dream Literacy Initiative grant beginning Monday, November 2, 2020 and ending on Friday, January 29, 2021 at 11:59 pm (CST).

Please review the Frequently Asked Questions before applying.

Getting Started

To submit a proposal, go to the online application form and complete the following steps. If this is your first time submitting an application through Foundant, our grants management system, you may want to first review our How to Apply webpage.


1. Enter Project Name

Note: To qualify for this grant, the applying institution must be a public library located within 20 miles of a Dollar General Store, distribution center, or corporate office.

To begin your application, enter American Dream Literacy Initiative into the “Project Name” field.

2. Complete Project Director Information

To complete this section, provide all the information that is requested about the Project Director.

Note: The project director is the person who will be responsible for coordinating the entire proposed project. They will be the primary point of contact for the project at the applicant institution.

3. Complete Library Information

To complete this section, provide all the information about the applying library’s total population served and community type. Also indicate the percentage of the population that speaks a language other than English at home and the number of library staff and volunteers currently providing literacy services for adult learners.

4. Complete Project Information and Narrative

You will be asked to provide demographic information about your community (e.g. unemployment rate, median household income, literacy rate, graduation rate, etc.), as well as narrative responses about your project. Before you compose the narrative part of this application, we strongly recommend that you read these guidelines carefully. If you do not, your application is unlikely to be competitive.

  • Project description. Describe in detail your proposed project: What is the project design? Are the services new or an expansion of existing services? Whom will you be serving? Is this population new to your community? How have data collection and community engagement helped you to determine the needs of the adult learner population you serve? How will you staff this initiative? (including library staff and any contract or partner organizations staff) How will these literacy services for adult learners benefit the library and the community? Will your project include bookmobile-based literacy services for adult learners? [limit: 500 words] 
  • Outreach and collaboration. Indicate your plan for working with partners, if applicable, and the community at large to facilitate and promote this project: List your partners and specify what each will contribute. How will volunteers contribute to this project? How will you publicize and promote this project? [limit: 250 words]
  • Evaluation and sustainability. Detail how you will evaluate and sustain this initiative: How does your library measure impact and outcomes for adult literacy efforts? How will your library continue to provide literacy services when the grant ends? [limit: 250 words]

5. Upload Letters of Support

Please upload letters of support from two or more community partners. Letters should include the organization’s fiscal and in-kind contributions to the American Dream Literacy Initiative.

6. Complete Project Budget and Justification

Please provide a brief narrative detailing a breakdown of the grant funds you are requesting. Please categorize anticipated project expenses in the following categories: Personnel; Collection Development; Outreach and Collaboration Materials; Printing, Design, and Distribution; Media Marketing and Production; Technology; Training; Travel; Other. Indicate whether they will be covered by grant funds, in-kind funds, or other funding sources. For example, if you are requesting $5,000 for Collection Development, provide specifics of how you intend to spend grant monies to expand your print, digital, software, and/or online resources. Please note that grant funds must not exceed $5,000, funds will be awarded on a one-time basis, and grant funds may not be used for bookmobile maintenance. [limit: 500 words]

7. Sign Application by Authorized Official

An application for an American Dream Literacy Initiative grant is an application for a grant from ALA, using funding provided by the Dollar General Literacy Foundation. ALA is required by law to ask applicants to identify a certifying official who is authorized to submit applications for funding on behalf of the institution.

To complete this section, you must enter all the information that is requested.

8. Review and Edit Your Application

9. Submit Your Application

Once you have completed all parts of your application, you may submit it by selecting the Submit button. All applications must be submitted by 11:59 pm CST on January 29, 2021. Applications submitted after that time will be ineligible.

Note that once you have submitted your application, you can no longer alter it. The application will then be submitted for review. You will receive an email confirming submission of your application.

Application Review

Applications will be evaluated according to the following criteria:

  • Clarity and completeness of the application. Has the application supplied all required information, including all sections of the narrative and supporting materials?
  • Clarity and completeness of the project and its ability to address demonstrated needs of the community.
  • Capacity to carry out the proposed project activities, including the library’s ability to effectively leverage community resources, including volunteers, in-kind donations, and partner organization participation.
  • Evidence that the library has identified reasonable goals and potential outcomes, and the capacity to measure and report on the short-term impact of the proposed project.
  • Evidence of a realistic post-project sustainability plan for services supported by the American Dream grant.
  • Size and type of community the applicant’s library serves.

Applicants are encouraged to address questions about the selection guidelines, process, and requirements to the ALA Public Programs Office at 1-800-545-2433, ext. 5045, or

Review and Selection Process

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

Grant Administration Information

Application deadline: Friday, January 29, 2021
Award notification: Wednesday, February 17, 2021
Cash grant distributed by: Wednesday, March 31, 2021
Grant Period: Monday, March 15 – Wednesday, December 15, 2021
Final Report Due: Within 30 days of completion of the library’s grant project OR by Saturday, January 15, 2022, whichever comes first

Points of Contact

If you have questions, contact:

Public Programs Office
American Library Association
1-800-545-2433, ext. 5045