Gun Violence Prevention & Justice Reform Guidelines

Here is information explaining our work and the types of projects we seek to fund as part of our 2021-2025 strategy. For any questions you may have, please feel free to reach out to [email protected].


The mission of the Gun Violence Prevention & Justice Reform Program is building safe and just communities in the Great Lakes region. Our grant making approach encompasses three focus areas: (1) reducing gun violence in the Great Lakes region; (2) reducing the harms and racial disparities in the criminal justice system’s response to gun violence; and 3) advancing violence intervention policy and practice as a gun violence prevention strategy, and an alternative to arrest and incarceration.

Reducing Gun Violence in the Great Lakes Region

Gun violence remains one of the central health and safety challenges of our time, with more than 110,000 Americans injured or killed by guns every year. Gun violence in all its forms—community violence, domestic violence, mass shootings, suicide, and accidental gun deaths and injuries— undermines the ability of the next generation to thrive. The evidence is clear that reducing gun violence requires reducing the easy availability of guns. To reduce deaths and injuries from gun violence, the Foundation supports projects to: (a) strengthen gun violence prevention policies in the Great Lakes region; (b) conduct research and improve data collection to inform policy development, implementation, and advocacy; (c) educate young people about the risks of guns; (d) use the courts to advance and defend gun violence prevention policies; and (e) engage funders in supporting gun violence prevention.

Reforming the Justice System

Racial equity is at the core of the Foundation’s focus on justice system reform, where police violence and mass incarceration disproportionately impact young Black and Hispanic males. We take an intersectional approach which seeks to reduce racial disparities in policing and incarceration by rethinking the standard response to gun crime of aggressive policing, arrests, and incarceration of young gun possessors. Our funding supports projects that: (a) reform policing through building police-community trust and legitimacy, reducing the use of force by police officers, and increasing police accountability; (b) develop alternatives to arrest and incarceration for young people who commit non-violent gun offenses; and (c) reimagine the future of public safety.

Violence Intervention

Community-based gun violence disproportionately impacts young Black and Brown people and is highly concentrated within neighborhoods and social networks. Victimization increases the likelihood that an individual will be victimized again or become a perpetrator of gun violence themselves. A growing body of evidence supports community-based violence intervention strategies as a way to break this cycle and contribute to individual and neighborhood safety and reduce reliance on the criminal justice system. The GVPJR Program will support violence intervention through: (a) research to identify best practices for design, delivery and funding of violence intervention programs; (b) professional development and technical assistance for the community of public and private sector violence intervention practitioners; and (c) support for policies to secure public sector support for violence intervention.


Please tell me more about your focus on policy and systems change.

We focus our grant making on initiatives that promise to inform policy development, advocacy and implementation, and that seek to improve the public sector institutions that impact gun violence and the criminal justice system. That includes advancing the public debate about important policy issues, most notably those that reduce access to firearms by those at greatest risk of violence and those that improve the fairness of the justice system, through original research and analysis; public education and engagement; and coalition and constituency building, among other tactics. We believe such policy initiatives can lead to broad, systemic changes that affect the most people over the long run.

Do you fund initiatives outside the Great Lakes region?

We fund national projects, including research and policy advocacy, that are likely to have an impact on gun violence prevention, justice reform or violence intervention policy or practice in the Great Lakes region. Our state and local work is concentrated in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. The Gun Violence Prevention & Justice Reform Program also makes grants to select initiatives in Pennsylvania. Applicants for projects in Ohio should consult with a member of the program team before submitting a letter of inquiry.

Do you make grants to law enforcement agencies?

While we do not make grants to support law enforcement operations, we do support projects that engage law enforcement leaders in gun violence prevention, justice system reform, and violence intervention. We also support law enforcement/researcher partnerships to identify best practices.

What types of projects do you support in the justice reform focus area?

In the areas of policing, alternatives to arrest and incarceration for young people who commit non-violent gun offenses, and reimagining public safety, we are interested in funding projects including:

  • research, including evaluations of promising models,
  • pilot initiatives in the Great Lakes region,
  • policy development,
  • federal, state or local policy advocacy,
  • law enforcement-researcher partnerships,
  • communications and narrative change, and
  • public and stakeholder education and engagement, including grassroots organizing and convenings.

Does your justice reform work target specific age groups?

The GVPJR Program’s grants to develop alternatives to arrest and incarceration should target young adults who commit non-violent gun offenses. Our grant making to reform policing and reimagine public safety is not limited to specific age groups, although we are most interested in projects that will advance racial equity.

Do you fund school or community-based programs in violence prevention and intervention (i.e. direct service)?

No, we generally do not fund direct service programs. Our funding for violence intervention is focused on research, advocacy, and support for national or regional communities of practice.

Does your justice reform work support prison reform or re-entry programs?

No, we do not support prison reform or re-entry programs. The GVPJR Program’s justice reform grant making is focused on identifying alternatives to arrest and incarceration to keep young adults from entering the system.