Letters of Inquiry Submission Deadline: September 9, 2019

The Spark Justice Fund at Borealis Philanthropy invites interested grassroots groups working on ending cash bail and transforming pretrial justice in the United States to submit letters of inquiry to be considered for funding. 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.

For application instructions, please see below under “How to Apply.”

The Spark Justice Fund (SJF) is a donor collaborative at Borealis Philanthropy that supports grassroots 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.

Current donors include Art for Justice, Ford Foundation, Galaxy Gives, Heising-Simons Foundation, MacArthur Foundation, NoVo Foundation, Open Society Foundations, and an anonymous donor.

The Fund prioritizes supporting work that aligns with the following goals:

  • Decriminalizing poverty
  • Dramatically reducing the number of people incarcerated in jails
  • Advancing transformative, community-based models of justice
  • Securing justice and equity for low-income communities of color most impacted by incarceration, including women and LGBTQ people
  • Building power among communities most impacted by incarceration
  • Elevating the leadership of those most directly affected by the criminal justice system

What We Provide 
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;
  • Resources to respond to timely opportunities.

Who We Fund
Successful applicants will include 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 decarceration 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.

What We Don’t Fund
The Spark Justice Fund does NOT fund:

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

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:         Groups notified of award decisions

How to Apply:
To apply, please submit a letter of inquiry through the Borealis grant portal by September 9, 2019. Please read:

Please note that groups have the option of submitting either written responses or oral responses. Oral responses can be submitted for each question by providing a URL link to an audio or video file on any platform, such as YouTube, Vimeo, or Dropbox. Regardless of whether you choose to submit written or oral responses, you must submit the online application and provide individual answers to each question and make sure it is clear which question you are answering.

Learn more about the fund and our grantees. 

If you have further questions, please email: sparkjustice@borealisphilanthropy.org.