First Literacy Grants

Funding innovation in adult literacy

First Literacy Grants support Adult Basic Education (ABE) organizations in the development and trial of innovative education programs through grant funding, hands-on technical support, and field-wide results sharing in our annual event: Spotlight on Innovation in Adult Basic Education.

These grants of up to $15,000 give organizations with creative ideas the opportunity to fund a project while receiving technical support from First Literacy for the life of the grant. Projects are teacher-led, directly impact adult learners, and are shared with peer organizations to enrich the entire ABE and ESOL field.

Grants can be used for projects such as developing and piloting curriculum, 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. For more examples of past grant presentations and funded projects visit our online library of resources and search for First Literacy Grant projects.

How To Apply

The 2023-2024 First Literacy Grant Proposals and Applications are now closed.

If you didn’t submit a grant this year, 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. 

2023-2024 First Literacy Grant PREVIEW of Application Questions (pdf for reference only; application must be completed online through the application link above)

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 resources and practices for teaching and learning. Grants focus on project-based, fresh approaches to instruction, curriculum and staff development, and related areas. These grants are not intended to fund regular ABE or ESOL classes.

  • New Programs: Programs 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 Programs: Programs 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. Programs applying for a second-year bonus must replicate the program with fidelity in year two including capturing pertinent data. The program must also submit a letter of intent to apply for the second-year bonus and a brief final report by the given deadline.
  • Project Replication Bonus: ABE and ESOL programs that replicate a current First Literacy funded project can apply for a $1,000 replication bonus. These $1,000 bonus awards are given to the project facilitator and the external partner (must be a nonprofit ABE or ESOL program) in the fiscal year AFTER the original award. Both programs must submit a letter of intent and a brief final report to apply for this bonus by the given deadline.

Organizational Grants

These grants provide funding to support the development, trial and implementation of innovative practices that will directly impact the entire grantee organization and its students. These larger-scale grants are awarded to programs focusing on 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
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.
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. 

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 via Zoom. You will meet with First Literacy staff and a member of the First Literacy Community Advisory Council.
Q: If we are awarded a grant, how are we paid?

A: First Literacy disburses half of the award by September 30, 2023. Your final report and final submission of grant materials are due June 16, 2024. We will pay your second installment by June 30, 2024 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 2024. 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. 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: 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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