Spark Justice Fund

Background

The Spark Justice Fund (SJF) is a donor collaborative at Borealis Philanthropy that supports grassroots organizing and advocacy groups to end the use of money bail in the criminal justice system, transform pretrial justice, and build power in communities most impacted by incarceration in the United States.

The Fund’s long-term vision is to:

  • End money bail and advance transformative pretrial justice reforms that significantly reduce jail populations, decriminalize poverty, and eliminate disparities for low-income communities of color, including for women of color and other marginalized populations.
  • Strengthen the capacity of state-based and local grassroots groups and those who are impacted by the criminal legal system to lead the movement for its transformation
  • Elevate the leadership of those most directly affected by the criminal legal system

Current donors to SJF are Art for Justice, Ford Foundation, Galaxy Gives, Heising-Simons Foundation, MacArthur Foundation, NoVo Foundation, Open Society Foundations, and Anonymous Donors.

The Fund’s 2019 Advisory Committee includes Amanda Alexander from Detroit Justice Center, Daryl Atkinson from Forward Justice, and Gina Clayton-Johnson from the Essie Justice Group. Founding advisors were Rashad Robinson of Color of Change, Alec Karakatsanis of Civil Rights Corps, and Cherise Fanno Burdeen of Pretrial Justice Institute.

Grantmaking Model

SJF supports grantees with:

  • Multi-year general operating support grants for grassroots organizing groups;
  • Grants and coaching support for organizational development and capacity-building;
  • Technical assistance and peer learning activities to foster deeper field coordination;
  • Discretionary resources to respond to timely opportunities.

Grantmaking Criteria

SJF funds effective, innovative grassroots organizing and advocacy groups that:

  • Work authentically with constituencies most impacted by mass incarceration (particularly those groups led by individuals directly impacted by the system).
  • Demonstrate a clear power-building and leadership-development strategy that meaningfully engages directly impacted communities in defining problems, solutions, and actions.
  • Engage in bail reform efforts that advance decarcertion and are connected to a broader and holistic vision of reform. The Fund will consider requests for support both to advance policy reforms and to ensure effective implementation of reforms already adopted.
  • Are based in jurisdictions with momentum and strong partnerships among groups.
  • Have an explicit, demonstrated commitment to racial, economic, and gender justice.

Please note that the Spark Justice Fund does NOT fund:

  • direct services work that is not connected to an advocacy/organizing agenda
  • individuals
  • government entities
  • international projects

Applying to the Spark Justice Fund

The Spark Justice Fund invites grassroots organizing and advocacy groups in the United States interested in seeking support from the Spark Justice Fund to submit a letter of inquiry through our online grant portal (see instructions below). A letter of inquiry is the first stage in the process to apply for funding.  Groups that are selected will be invited to submit full proposals to the fund before grant award decisions are made.

Timeline for the Process

September 9, 2019:                LOIs due

November 2019:                    Invitations to submit full proposals will be sent to selected groups.

December 2019:                    Full proposals due from invited groups

February 2020:                       Grantees notified

How to Apply 

Organizations interested in submitting an LOI should take the following steps:

Supporting the Spark Justice Fund

If you are a foundation or a donor interested in learning about how you can make a contribution to the Spark Justice Fund or become a partner in the fund, please email sparkjustice@borealisphilanthropy.org and we will get back to you.