Spark Justice Fund


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

The Fund identifies and invests in the most effective organizing and advocacy efforts across the country. 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, Gina Clayton-Johnson from the Essie Justice Group, and Daryl Atkinson from Forward Justice. 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.

Funding Priorities

The Fund supports groups that:

  • Work authentically with constituencies most impacted by mass incarceration (with a particular interest in supporting groups led by those 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.

Applying to the Spark Justice Fund

We have just awarded our first round of grants and anticipate a second grantmaking round in early 2020.

In the coming weeks, we will launch a call for Letters of Inquiry from groups interested in seeking support from the Spark Justice Fund. Check back here for further instructions, or sign up on our email list to receive updates about the fund.

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 and we will get back to you.