CJI is an innovative grant making collaborative made up of community organizers, activists, donors, and donor-activists.
Together we identify, fund, and nurture grassroots organizations led by those most impacted working to transform the criminal justice system in the United States.
CJI’s work falls into four categories:
advocating for the work of our grantees and lifting up their work in funding spaces
and influencing the field of philanthropy toward holistic solutions that support deep systemic change
Who We Fund
CJI is an incubator for small emerging and established organizations that are engaged in strategic criminal justice movement work with marginalized communities: including people of color, young people, immigrants, gender and sexual minorities, incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people, Native Americans, low-income communities and other communities impacted by the criminal justice and immigration systems.
CJI funds organizations that:
are focused on community organizing, often with member-led structures. CJI funds both groups focused exclusively on criminal justice as well as multi-issue organizations with targeted criminal justice work intended to build the movement.
have a clear vision for how their work will bring about systemic change and strengthen the larger movement to transform the criminal justice system
include the leadership of formerly incarcerated people, those directly impacted by state violence, or the criminal justice system in general
are part of intersectional networks, alliances or coalitions that are building power for transformational change
What it looks like
We meet as a circle twice a year. In the spring, we engage in dynamic political education with organizers and activists around specific criminal justice issues. These meetings are often open to interested people who are not members of the circle. This political education helps us determine our funding focus for the coming grant cycle. In the fall, we put out a Request for Proposals and receive grant applications from organizations from all over the country. In the winter, we meet to discuss the applications and make grant decisions together. Throughout the year, we program political education calls and events, participate in movement funding conversations, and circle members participate in committees to better support the growth and impact of our work. We use fundraising as an opportunity to organize donors and other funders to learn about and support the work of our grantees.
The Key Elements of CJI's Collaborative Grant Making
Shared decision-making empowers activists to take on large-scale agendas that would not move forward without resources
Donors bring diverse skills in the context of shared activist leadership
Long-term relationships help sustain resources and organizing efforts
Deliberate airing of class, race, gender-related and sexual identity issues, in a manner consistent with participatory justice principles, builds strong relationships and a durable organization
Independence of the circle allows for nimble funding decisions in changing political landscapes
The Impact of CJI's Funding Model
CJI’s Innovative Funding Model helps broaden the philanthropic options available for criminal justice organizing by promoting a funding model that builds community among people with vast differences of experience, identity, and experience of the criminal justice system around the shared goal of transforming the system toward healing and justice. This model enacts the kind of deep community work necessary to grow social justice movements by transforming the way we engage with each other.
Supports the leadership of those directly impacted by incarceration and criminalization in directing movement resources, while engaging the deep support of those not directly impacted
Provides an alternative, progressive model for giving that institutionalizes cross-class accountability and power-sharing that appeals to the next generation of donors
Incubates seedling organizations that build community power and awareness from the bottom up
Creates opportunity for working and learning in a group with differences of class, race, culture, age, gender, sexual orientation, experience with incarceration for the benefit of all
Results in creative and transformative funding decisions that move resources to critical and under resourced areas of the movement