CJI Passes $2 Million in 2021 Grants

Updated: Dec 20, 2021

By all accounts, and despite a second year of pandemic-related restrictions on work and travel, 2021 has been a banner year for CJI, our Circle Members, and grantees. CJI met its goal of making $1 million in Leadership Circle grants, and was able to disburse 25 Strategic Opportunities Support (SOS) Rapid Response Circle grants in 2021, our second year of the pandemic.


A slate of 48 Leadership Circle grants totaling $1 million was awarded in December with award distributions going out in early January 2022. And seven additional SOS Rapid Response grants of $5,000 each were awarded at the end of 2021, bringing the SOS Circle year-end total to 25 grants totaling $125,000. This year, 98 new grants were awarded totaling $1.625 million. In terms of total grants distributions this year, which accounts for grants approved in 2020 but awarded in early 2021 across all programs, our total comes to 124 grants in 30 states totaling $2.035 million in 2021 alone.


Remaining true to our roots and founding principles, CJI Leadership Circle grantees are disproportionately young organizations still building their reputations in the philanthropic world. This year, for example, 22 Leadership Circle grantees have been in operation for five years or less and six grantees are under 10 years old. The remaining 20 have been working for 11 years or longer.

The SOS Rapid Response Circle issues micro-grants of up to $5,000 to eligible organizations addressing critically urgent strategic organizing and advocacy calls to action and meeting emergency needs in their communities. SOS also enables organizations to take advantage of unanticipated opportunities for organizing and advocacy that may be otherwise prohibitive due to small funding gaps. Qualifying organizations are led by and serve formerly incarcerated people and the families of those directly impacted, with smaller annual budgets under $750,000.


CJI’s SOS Rapid Response Circle is proud to have granted a total of $125,000 to a cohort of 25 grassroots organizations working to upend the systems of mass incarceration and hostile, discriminatory policing practices that continue to capture and oppress our people. This year’s grantees’ work spans 16 states and covers a variety of target issues, including de-carceration efforts aimed at freeing people from prisons and immigration detention centers, healing work and transformative justice alternatives to the criminal legal system, sex worker advocacy, mutual aid related to the lingering effects of the pandemic, the restoration and protection of voting rights, and more. The SOS program has disbursed all available funds and is now closed until 2022.


Over our 21-year history, CJI has succeeded in awarding over $9.6 million in grants to more than 275 grassroots nonprofits active in 39 states and Washington, D.C.—all engaged in the fight against the criminalization, brutalization, and mass incarceration of society’s most vulnerable people, as well as the search for solutions. We are experiencing tremendous growth now, thanks in part to the generosity of our supporters across the country.


From 2016 through 2020, CJI grantmaking experienced a nine-fold increase in total awards. Over our two-decade-long history, our unique model of truly inclusive grantmaking went from annually awarding $180,000 to just a handful of organizations in 2001 to $2,035,000 distributed to 124 grantees in 2021. We look forward to working with you on making 2022 just as successful for the movement.

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