First Literacy Grants

Funding innovation in adult literacy

First Literacy Grants provide funding that stimulates and supports the development, trial, and implementation of innovative and impactful Adult Basic Education (ABE) resources and practices. Grants of up to $15,000 are open to all not-for-profit Adult Basic Education organizations in Massachusetts.  Projects are teacher-led, directly impact adult learners, and are shared with peer organizations to enrich the entire ABE and ESOL field.

First Literacy Funding Priorities

  • To fund innovative and impactful ideas that will improve educational and professional outcomes for the students of ABE organizations.
  • To fund ideas that may not be able to be funded through Massachusetts Department of Elementary & Secondary Education (DESE) or other major funding sources.
  • To fund ideas that will have a lasting impact in ABE schools and organizations.

Grants can be used for projects such as developing and piloting a program idea, offering a short-term class that fills an unmet student need, or organization-wide initiatives. Past projects have incorporated everything from poetry and theater to civics and science. All projects are shared each year in our annual event: Spotlight on Innovation in Adult Basic Education. To learn more about current and past projects visit our Grant Funded Projects page. To view FAQs please scroll to the bottom of this page.

How To Apply

The 2024-2025 First Literacy Grant request for proposals and application is now open! The deadline to apply is May 2, 2024 at 5:00 pm.

First Literacy Grants Fiscal Year 2025 Application
First Literacy Grants Fiscal Year 2025 Request for Proposals (pdf for reference only; application must be completed through the link above)

Required Documents
Links to these documents are also included in the Request for Proposals pdf file above.

FY25 First Literacy Grant Activities, Outcomes and Measures Chart
FY25 First Literacy Grant Proposed Project Budget

Information Sessions

To learn more about First Literacy Grants and the application process we’re providing two information sessions via Zoom. We strongly encourage the lead teacher for a proposal to attend one session. Grant writers and administrators are also welcome. Please review the RFP, application, and FAQs before attending.

Wednesday, February 14, 2024, 3:00 PM Grant Seeker Information Session 1 – REGISTER
Thursday, March 14, 2024, 10:00 AM Grant Seeker Information Session 2 – REGISTER

If you didn’t submit a grant in the past, but would like to see what is required, you can view the PREVIEW pdf document below. The entire application is completed online, and applicants create a login allowing drafts of the application to be complete later if necessary, before submitting. 

First Literacy Grant PREVIEW of Application Questions (pdf for reference only; application must be completed online)

Need help?

Most questions will be answered in the FAQs below, but if you have an idea you would like to discuss before applying, please contact Bryan McCormick at 617-482-3336 ext. 113 or To receive grant-related updates please sign up for our mailing list.

Program Grants

Program grants range from $5,000 to $7,500 and provide funding for the development, trial, and
implementation of innovative and impactful ABE or ESOL teaching and learning resources and practices that are project-based, fresh approaches to instruction, curriculum and staff development, and related areas.

  • New Organizations: Organizations that have not received a First Literacy Grant in the past 10 years are eligible to apply for up to $7,500 in the first year of the proposed project.
  • Returning Organizations: Organizations that have received a First Literacy Grant in the past ten years are eligible to apply for up to $5,000 in the first year of the proposed project.

Incentive Grants

  • Second Year Bonus: Organizations that received First Literacy funding for the first year of a project are eligible to apply for up to half of their first-year grant amount in a second year of funding. Organizations applying for a second-year bonus must replicate the program with fidelity in year two including capturing pertinent data. Organizations may apply for a second year grant using the grant application above.
  • Project Replication Bonus: ABE and ESOL organizations that replicate a current First Literacy funded project can apply for a $1,000 replication bonus. Your organization and another organization can each receive $1,000 if you assist a second organization in implementing your grant idea/program. Both organizations must submit a brief letter of intent to apply for this bonus by the given deadline.

Incentive grants can be applied for under a program or organizational grant in the same fiscal year.  Incentive grant awards are given out in the fiscal year after the original award. 

Organization-Wide Grants

These grants provide funding for innovative ideas for larger-scale, organization-wide curricula, systems, training, and/or teacher improvement. Grants of up to $15,000 are available and priority is given to projects with a robust data reporting plan.


Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Who do I contact if I have questions?

A: Bryan McCormick, Program Director, may be reached at or 617-482-3336 ext. 113.

Q: How many proposals may I submit?

A: Each program may submit any number of proposals. First Literacy will only fund one proposal per program with the exception of incentive grants.

Q: How should I submit my proposal?

A:Your whole application will be completed and submitted online via the link above. You will be asked to create an account with a login, so you’ll be able to save drafts of your application, and log back in to complete and submit later. We will view your completed application submission online – no need to separately email or print out to mail to us in any other format. You can preview the questions in the sample pdf above.

Q: Why do I need to have an interview, and who will interview me?

A: Interviews give you a chance to tell us a little more about your ideas and how you plan to carry them out. It also gives you a chance to ask us questions. We envision the interview as a conversation. You will meet with First Literacy staff and a member of the First Literacy Community Advisory Council. The interview will be conducted via Zoom or in person at our office at 160 Boylston Street. Applicants may decide the format and that choice will have no impact on whether or not a grant is awarded.

Q: If we are awarded a grant, how are we paid?

A: First Literacy disburses half of the award by September 30, 2024. Your final report and final submission of grant materials are due June 19, 2025. We will pay your second installment by June 30, 2025 if we have received the final report and materials. We reserve the right to withhold final payment if the project is not completed.

Q: What am I expected to do as part of the annual field-wide results sharing event: Spotlight on Innovation in Adult Basic Education?

A: The lead teacher (and any collaborators) will present their project to ABE colleagues at the First Literacy Spotlight on Innovation in Adult Basic Education in the fall of 2025. We will support you in designing your presentation.

Q: What kind of support may I expect from First Literacy?
A: Our intention is to help you implement a strong project. We are available to support you with any reasonable requests, such as finding resources, solving problems, adjusting to unexpected changes, etc.
Q: What kind of monitoring can I expect from First Literacy?
A: Bryan McCormick, Program Director, will schedule a site visit with you to look at the project in action, to check in on how things are progressing, and to see what support you might need.
Q: What kind of reporting will I be required to complete?

A: You will need to fill out an interim report and a final report that includes student demographic data, outcomes, and any final products. Reporting requirements will differ based on the awarded amount. Please note: We send all correspondence about the grant to each person who is part of the project. 

Q: Why do you need the demographics of our students?

A: When we apply for grants, we are often asked about the demographics of students who benefit from our services. In your program application, you will be asked about the demographics of your program. If you receive a grant, you will share the demographics of students served by the project in your final report. The information you share with us is only shared in the aggregate, and your organization’s name is never attached to what we share.  

Q: I plan to submit a proposal to a conference based on my First Literacy grant project, but I won’t know if I am accepted at the time of my grant submission. How should I handle this in the budget?

A: Use a provisional amount depending on whether your conference is in New England or out of state. Contact First Literacy when you are accepted. If you are not accepted, we can make a budget modification and change your award.

Q: What happens if things don’t work out the way we projected in our original proposal?
A: If you need to make a change, and your original goals are still on track, it’s probably fine. But you do need to contact First Literacy with your request, so we know about the changes and can approve them. This is particularly important if you are making budget change requests.
Q: Can you tell me more about the activities/outcomes chart?
A: The purpose of this chart is to think ahead about how you plan to implement your project. For example, in the first few weeks, you might want to do a pre-survey or assessment of some kind. In the weeks that follow, you will need to plan for certain tasks that will bring you closer to reaching your overall goal. We view this chart as a planning tool for you to think through the project step by step and to show us how you plan to proceed.
Q: Why do you give us a limited number of pages to write about our idea?

A: We are looking for focused projects with clear goals and processes. The more focused you are, the clearer you will be about what you want to achieve.

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