I was recently asked (blog comment) for references on grants for Restorative Justice at both the State and National levels. I thought others might appreciate the information I could share on obtaining and maintain Restorative Justice funding (it’s not just about the grants). Funding comes in 3 streams for non-profits, if your Restorative Justice program is not a non-profit, but a program you can still use these tips.
The 3 ways of income are 1)fee for service/contract 2)grants and 3)donations/public support. It can be challenging to compete for grant dollars these days, cuts in government funding has created more competition for grants. Raising credibility so that programs are required and fee for services can be set, takes authentic and genuine relationship building. It requires understanding systems, and creating RESTORATIVE programs that address community needs. Challenges in defining and marketing your work need to be overcome in order to get the individual donated dollar. It is not easy and it takes a great deal of work. The following tips can help guide your efforts in raising revenue for staff and programs.
The first tip . . . use foundational Restorative Justice approaches in your grant/funding relationships! That means, respect, relationship and responsibility. Call the agencies you are looking to apply to. Be clear in what you intend to do. Study up, don’t ask for $500,000 from an organization that makes $5,000 grants. Think from the others point of view. I’m very passionate about Restorative Justice, and it can be hard to understand rejections. Make a follow-up call, send a thank you letter for the response and opportunity to apply. Seems counter-intuitive to your time, yet, it sets you up for role modeling the values of Restorative Justice! Spend time building relationships, be respectful.
When applying for grants be very clear on what you intend to do, and how you will create the outcomes, the grantor is looking for. Design your work to the mission and vision of Restorative Justice. Frame your work as addressing public health issues, and demonstrate outcomes, specific changes your work will provide. Don’t change or stretch so far you are grasping for cash and not doing REAL restorative justice work.
#2 – set your value and create multiple ways to pay. You want services to be accessible, and if your program does diversion, you want equity in access. That means that if a person can’t afford services, you need to create alternate forms of payment. At SCVRJP we offer community service for payment, and you can attend Circles as part of community service. We have set fees for service based on choices the offender has in the system. For example it is $75 to reinstate your drivers license, and our Underage Consumption Class is $60. Consider all the factors in setting your fees, speak to your partners. We raised our prices and lost a referral agency, that cost us $10,000!
#3 Give back, I call it “pro bono” or “tithing” I feel there is a certain amount that SCVRJP should do. Over the years we have had to narrow down what we can do “pro bono”, so I offer scholarships on a case by case basis, rather than listed on every training sign up form. We used to have programs that didn’t have a related funding, now all programs are connected to a specific funding stream. We DO NOT charge victims, and no RJ program should do that, however, we have grants and fundraisers around those aspects of programs! You create a certain amount of social equity in strong relationships, reaching out to others and yet is is VERY, VERY necessary to live within your means and budget, be mindful of what you ‘give away’.
#4 Don’t go out of your area for $. Contracts for SCVRJP typically come in the forms of training. Be cautious when chasing down this funding stream. I have seen community providers of Restorative Justice go and train at schools, without any experience of School-based Restorative Justice. It is not just transferrable to teach teachers how to do a victim-offender conference. It is necessary to work and train on what you have an expertise or understanding of. Rushing ahead and training on Restorative Justice, regardless of your understanding and experience actually sets implementation back than moving it ahead. For the greater good of the movement itself, find a credible and be credible in trainings and contracts. It will help the field itself if contracts are delivered in a way that RESULTS happen.
#5 Budget wisely, use diverse leadership. SCVRJP has been blessed, we have grown from a budget of $20,000 – - to $180,000. It takes a great deal of dedicated work. I literally put in the hours of a small business owner to make it work. I put in the long hours, but I didn’t do it alone, consultation and support of board members has made SCVRJP successful. Difficult decisions need to be made, you will be surprised what you can learn to do with less. We had to cut the snacks, at Circle (yet I know fundamentally you serve food) we also cut our janitor services, and have to take turns cleaning our office. You share in the responsibility of earning and spending money – from upper level board members to all staff knowing the financial status of your organization.
#6 Be fearless and real. A few years ago, I told myself, when SCVRJP got into using our “reserve” funds, I was going to look for another job. That MIGHT have been a full 3 years ago. At this point I can’t imagine doing anything else, despite SCVRJP not have a specific account of “reserve funds”. I don’t know what the future holds, I know it might look very different for SCVRJP. A major funder has put us on notice, we are hopeful to create a new business plan. I will keep applying the tips i’ve outlined.
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