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United Way of The Black Hills

Early Learner Communities Grants

What is the Early Learner Communities Grant?

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Black Hills Reads, an initiative of United Way of the Black Hills, believes that all communities should have the opportunity to make early learning a priority. As such, we are excited to provide the Early Learner Communities Grant to any community throughout the Black Hills who would like to undergo the process of becoming an Early Learner Community.

This grant through Black Hills Reads is available to any community in the Black Hills region who has committed to starting the “Early Learner Community Process” through Early Learner South Dakota. See more information about this process below.

About the Early Learner Community Process:

Considering the importance of Early Learner Community systemic growth, Early Learner South Dakota (ELSD), under the auspice of the South Dakota Association for the Education of Young Children (SDAEYC), developed the Early Learner Community (ELC) Process and the Navigator Role to support any South Dakota community which, at a local level, desires to improve their local system to become more supportive of the community’s children and their families. Through this process, communities will develop a commitment to improve their early learning services for young families and children, improve their neighborhood’s access to young families, and improve their local policies that directly affect young children and families.

A community may start the Early Learner Community Process by following this “Early Learner Community Timeline” and signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with ELSD. After signing the MOU, a Navigator will be assigned to your community to help support you through this process. At this point, you will be eligible to apply for the first phase of this grant.

Be sure to review information about the Early Learning Communities Process on the Early Learner SD website and be in touch with an ELSD representative before applying for these grant funds. If you would like more information about this process, please email the Black Hills Reads Director at

Who Can Apply for this Grant?

Any Black Hills Community looking to make early learning a priority. There are two phases of the grant–the ‘Building’ phase and the ‘Sustaining’ phase. Please review the guidelines for each phase before applying. 

What is the deadline for the Early Learner Communities grant?

This is a rolling grant, a community can choose to apply at any time.


Building Grant

May request up to $5,000 in grant funds

1. Communities must have started the Early Learner Community Process by initiating contact with ELSD, completing basic planning with a Navigator, and signing the MOU before receiving these grant funds.

2. Communities must provide a projected budget of how funds will be spent (meetings, events, marketing materials, stipends, etc.)

3. Funds may be used to support your work while undergoing the first year of the Early Learner Community Process. Throughout this time, you will receive support from an assigned Navigator and have the following responsibilities:

  • Meet regularly as the local Leadership Committee to review the Early Learner Communities Assessment Tool (ELCAT) regarding your local community and develop an ELC Action Plan.
  • Meet regularly as the local Leadership Committee to make progress on Action Plan goals. 
  • Meet regularly with your assigned Navigator to receive support and access resources to support your community’s work.
  • Write grant proposals to support your local ELC work.
  • Hold an annual evaluation session with your assigned Navigator. 
  • Review the year’s work and make the decision of whether to continue in the Early Learner Community Process. 

Sustaining Grant  (only eligible to recipients of the Building grant who have completed the first year of the Early Learner Community Process)

May request up to $10,000 in grant funds

Contact Black Hills Reads Director, Hanna Glissendorf, at for more information about this grant.

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