Open Grants

Open grants are available to any public school district, 501(c)(3) tax exempt organization, or non-religious private school that assists elementary and secondary public schools in Ohio.

The Foundation has established two funding categories within the Open Grants program: Excellent Teaching and Deep Learning. Before completing a proposal, study the rationale behind the two grant categories and examine the charts associated with each.

Applicants must indicate the category or categories for which they are seeking funds.

Excellent Teaching

  • Excellent teachers are those who are intellectually curious and interested in rich content in the academic disciplines.
  • Excellent teachers nurture curiosity in their students.
  • Excellent teachers are deeply committed to advancing their professional knowledge and expertise.
  • Excellent teachers demonstrate dedication to the art and science of teaching as a profession.

Download a Detailed Chart Explaining Excellent Teaching (PDF)

Deep Learning

Deep learning refers to the development of critical thinking skills such as reasoning, problem solving, intellectual openness, practical application of learning, and inquisitiveness.

  • Students should master key skills including writing, research-mindedness, and complex core content in mathematics, science, social studies, language arts, and world languages.
  • Students should become globally competent, deepen their knowledge of the arts, develop computer and information technology skills, and be capable communicators.

The Foundation challenges teachers, administrators, and non-profit staff members to enhance students’ intellectual curiosity, promote resilience and persistence, design new assessment tools, and encourage self-directed learning.

Download a Detailed Chart Explaining Deep Learning (PDF)

What does this mean for grant seekers?

Preference for consideration will be given to grant proposals reflecting one or more of the following characteristics:

The proposal makes a clear connection to an ongoing environment of excellent teaching and/or deep learning in contrast to isolated experiences. Examples of these environments include individual classes, individual schools, school systems virtual learning, and supplementary programs sponsored by non-profit organizations.

The proposal includes plans to broaden its impact by sharing “lessons learned” with colleagues in other classes, building, school districts, or organizations.

The proposal addresses sustainability, indicating how the work proposed in the grant will be incorporated into the ongoing life of the school the classroom, or the program.

The program targets underserved populations.

The program involves collaboration with other organizations with goals similar to those of the Foundation.

The proposal is related to and evolves out of participation in one of the Foundation’s annual programs and/or institutes.

Application Requirements

There is no prescribed application form for Open Grants. Proposals must include all the required items and should address the Evaluation Criteria. Submit only the original grant proposal for consideration. No additional copies are required. No dollar limitation exists for Open Grants; however the average grant is $15,000. Grant requests must not exceed ten pages using a font size no smaller than 10 pt.

The following items must be submitted with all Open Grant proposals:

  • A one-page cover letter on the organization’s letterhead signed by the chief executive of the organization requesting the funds.
  • A one page executive summary. The first paragraph should include the project title, dollar amount requested, purpose of the grant, and the category that the proposal addresses. Please include program coordinator contact information including his/her e-mail address.
  • No more than a six-page detailed proposal in as brief a form as possible giving the amount requested; the specific purpose; its need, plan of action, a timeline, and projected outcomes; the number of participants, schools, etc. to be involved; and, if applicable, the sources of other funding for this specific project. (We do not need a copy of your organization’s financial audit.)
    If applying for a consecutive year Open Grant, you must address the Final Education Project Report Form questions as part of a new six-page proposal.


  • A detailed one-page budget for the entire project. Be specific indicating how Jennings funds will be allocated. If other funds will be used to support the project, include their amount and source. Include a narrative description of budget items. Download a sample “Open Grant Project Budget” (PDF).
  • In the case of institutions that propose to provide services to schools, a letter indicating a need for the services and support for the project signed by the superintendent of schools of a targeted district.
  • A copy of the organization’s IRS Department of Treasury ruling. Only organizations exempt from tax under Section 501(c) (3) may be considered for grants. (No IRS ruling is needed for public schools).
    The IRS ruling is not considered part of the 10 page maximum.

Evaluation Criteria for Open Grant Proposals

Open Grant proposals will be evaluated on the impact that the quality of teaching and/or the depth of learning experiences will have on students.

The following criteria serve as a guideline for organizations submitting proposals and for the Foundation to select qualified applicants to receive funding. Proposals are not required to meet all eleven of the defined conditions. Please use them as a tool for framing ideas regarding your proposal.

1. Characteristics of Excellent Teaching

  • Project specifically addresses criteria attributed to excellent teaching: motivation of students, connection of concepts to personal experience, and creation of learning environments that promote high levels of learning
  • Proposal identifies the target population of teachers and explains how the project will enhance “the art” of teaching.
  • Project, if focused on professional development, is job-embedded and includes an appropriate evaluation process

2. Characteristics of Deep Learning for Students

  • Project’s goals and objectives contribute to deep learning
  • Project specifically addresses problem solving, decision-making, multi-disciplinary thinking, multiple levels of analysis and/or experiential learning
  • Proposal identifies the target population and explains how the project will address relevant learning gaps by keeping in mind the needs of underserved students
  • Project enhances students’ intellectual curiosity and self-directed learning
  • Proposal aligns with the characteristics of excellent teaching

3. Innovation and Creativity

  • Project has a clear element of originality relative to the school district or the non-profit organization
  • Project reflects creative, innovative, and/or effective use of practices, tools, personnel, or other resources to achieve desired outcomes

4. Assessment of Outcomes

  • Project’s goals and objectives are clearly defined and measurable where appropriate
  • Proposal includes a specific evaluation plan to determine the extent to which objectives were achieved and the impact of the outcomes on student achievement or growth
  • Evaluation plan includes appropriate methods of formative and summative assessment

5. Research Basis

  • Project is clearly based on existing research related to deep learning and/or excellent teaching
  • Project involves teacher and/or staff participation in systematic inquiry/action research

6. Achievable Implementation

  • Timeline includes realistic starting and ending dates
  • Project will be evaluated within 12 months based on grantee determination of the timeline
  • Proposal identifies clear staff roles and responsibilities for each aspect of implementation
  • Project has a reasonable action plan to achieve the goals and objectives

7. Collaboration

  • Project shows evidence of broad stakeholder involvement, including a specific commitment of support from the organization’s leadership
  • Project involves parents where appropriate
  • Project includes partnerships and/or connections within the organization and outside the organization

8. Alignment

  • Proposal reflects and an alignment among the objectives, activities, evaluation, and desired impact
  • Proposal identifies alignment to state standards and district’s strategic or continuous improvement plan

9. Budget and Cost Effectiveness

  • Proposal reflects efficient use of existing organization resources in addition to the requested resources and states why Jennings funds are necessary
  • Total grant request is commensurate with identified program requirements
  • Proposal budget indicates specifically how Jennings funds will be allocated

10. Sustainability

  • Proposal includes an explicit discussion of post-grant sustainability and future funding sources, if needed
  • Proposal explains how changes in practice will impact learning over time

11. Dissemination

  • Proposal includes appropriate methods to identify what new ideas and effective practices were learned and the impact achieved on student learning
  • Proposal includes a specific plan to disseminate the outcome results, the new ideas, and the effective practices from the project to applicable populations

The Foundation’s Board of Directors and Distribution Committee, which are comprised of representatives from education and business, carefully consider each Open Grant proposal according to the established Evaluation Criteria.

Tips for a Successful Grant Proposal

  • Study the two grant categories and make sure there is a clear focus on the theme(s).
  • Allow adequate time for the review process
  • Complete the grant proposal accurately
  • Provide a clear explanation of how budget items relate to specific educational needs
  • Proofread the grant request for spelling and grammatical errors

Proposal Deadlines

Requests must be submitted by the 15th of the preceding month in which it is to be considered. If the 15th falls on a weekend or a holiday, requests must be submitted on the previous business day. The Board of Directors DOES NOT meet in February, July, October or December.

Action on grant applications is generally communicated within two months of submission.

Address Open Grant Proposals:

Martha Holden Jennings Foundation
The Halle Building
1228 Euclid Avenue, Suite 710
Cleveland, Ohio 44115