OSBF's Racial Justice Initiative

$500,000 in Grant Funding Now Available


For the first time ever, the OSBF is providing up to $500,000 in grant funding to support initiatives focused on long-lasting impact and institutional change for racial justice. These grants will be awarded in addition to the Foundation’s traditional grant cycles.

In August 2020, the OSBF announced its Racial Justice Initiative (RJI), created to provide up to $500,000 in new grant funding to focus on advancing racial justice in Ohio. This initiative aims to support projects that specifically identify, address and challenge systemic racism which hinders the pursuit of justice and public understanding of the rule of law for historically marginalized communities of color in Ohio.

Three projects were selected for RJI funding in 2020 and additional details about each grant can be found below. Individually, these projects will provide stakeholders with insight and education about racial justice barriers within various legal systems. Through their specific objectives, each grant partner anticipates long-lasting impact and institutional change for racial justice.

Additional funding opportunities through the Racial Justice Initiative will be available in 2021, with the next deadline set for October 1, 2021. As with all OSBF grantmaking programs, proposals submitted for the Racial Justice Initiative must have a strong connection to our mission. Promoting the pursuit of justice and understanding of the rule of law are centric to the OSBF’s purpose and funding decisions for all grant programs.

Additionally, the OSBF encourages proposals which promote racial justice that:

  • Identify and address systemic biases
  • Provide stable, replicable framework to eliminate systemic racism
  • Educate the public or other external stakeholders
  • Collaborate with legal systems such as courts, law enforcement, corrections, and others
  • And/or eliminate legal barriers for BIPOC collectively


At this time, the OSBF must discourage against proposals aimed at improving internal organizational issues with diversity, equity and inclusion or performing internal equitability assessments. While these tools provide meaningful insight and guide organizations toward equitable practices, OSBF grant funding is limited and cannot adequately sustain requests for internal organizational improvements.


OSBF announces  PHASE I and II grant recipients

During phase one of the Racial Justice Initiative grant cycle, the OSBF awarded the following:

$15,000 grant to the Health Policy Institute of Ohio for their Connections Between Criminal Justice and Health Brief. With grant funding, the Health Policy Institute of Ohio will create its new policy brief, which will provide research on the following:

  • The relationship between criminal justice and health
  • Data and information on how racism and inequities in the criminal justice system impact the overall health and wellbeing of Ohioans of color
  • Opportunities for improvement across the criminal justice and health systems
  • Evidence-informed policy approaches to eliminate racism, advance equity, reduce spending, and improve outcomes in the criminal justice and health systems

The new brief will be provided to legislators, state policymakers, and other stakeholders to increase their knowledge of the factors that impact both criminal justice and health, including racism, neighborhood conditions, education, family, and community violence and policing practices. 

During phase two, the OSBF awarded the following:

$25,000 to the University of Cincinnati College of Law’s Ohio Innocence Project for their Cincinnati Murder Conviction Audit. This audit will use data from the City of Cincinnati on all homicides in the city since 2011 to thoroughly investigate various cases, then determine if wrongful convictions occurred. Nationally, convictions occur at a much higher rate in the black community, which also indicates a higher risk of potential wrongful convictions. This audit will explore Cincinnati’s record of wrongful convictions, whether institutional racism was a factor, and provide a model for other innocence projects across the U.S. on how to get similar transparency disclosures from government entities.

$10,000 to the Center for Holocaust and Humanity Education for their Case Study for Law Enforcement: Building Community Through the Lessons of the Holocaust. Using the history of the Holocaust and Nazification of law enforcement as a case study, they will develop a training for law enforcement professionals that explores the topic of group think, challenge participants to analyze the role of law enforcement in history and its importance in modern-day community building and policing practices, and examine one’s conscious bias. Activities will focus on training implementation, ongoing support, follow ups, and development of a post-training guide. Set to launch in June 2021, the guide will provide ongoing activities/exercises, benchmarks, goals, and suggestions for supervisors to set for each officer.

During phase three, the OSBF awards the following:

$20,000 to Disability Rights Ohio (DRO) to help initiate its program “Alternatives to Policing and Law Enforcement: Emergency Response Systems in Ohio”. Since the Columbus City Council is working to redesign its community emergency response system as it addresses police brutality, DRO is advocating for a non-policing emergency response system that is anti-racist and trauma-informed and that responds to the needs of people experiencing mental health crises with trained crisis professionals and without the threat of arrest, incarceration, involuntary hospitalization, or other harmful outcomes. DRO will also research what is happening with police reforms in other cities and create written materials around evidence-based best practices for a non-policing emergency response system. This project will also serve to educate the public around these response issues, especially as they relate to the Americans with Disabilities Act.

$50,000 to the Ohio Family Care Association to evaluate racial equity in family participation in Ohio's Child Welfare System by completing a year-long systematic review of related Ohio policy and procedures. This project aims to identify laws and practices that present systemic racism in Ohio's Child Welfare system, identify ways that primary, kinship, foster and adoptive families are affected by these laws, codes and practices, highlight the intersection of systemic racism and family involvement in the Ohio child welfare system, and communicate with the child welfare system in implementing a change in embedded racism.

$25,000 to the Westerville for Racial Equity, Inclusion and Social Justice Engagement (WeRISE), who is a recently established civil rights and social advocacy group of 30 members serving the community in the geographic area of the Westerville City School District. WeRISE plans to conduct a comprehensive audit of all diversity, inclusion and anti-racism programming, activism and activity taking place within greater Westerville. The audit will identify what inclusion work is underway by the Westerville Partnership and associated organizations and identify where multiple efforts overlap and what gaps exist. The audit’s goals include increased resource sharing for antiracist legislative, political, and social activism; increased information sharing among partners; increased programming among multiple partners that is deployed more effectively by Westerville’s governmental, educational and community-based entities.


Grant funding for the Racial Justice Initiative will occur in phases. The next deadline will be October 1, 2021. Applications that are submitted after the deadlines will be considered for the next phase, pending availability of funds and continuance of the initiative.


Submitting an Application

If you're interested in applying, organizations may request a pre-submission conference or email a letter of intent (LOI) to Database Manager, Laura Spires LSpires@osbf.net.

All applications should be submitted through OSBF’s Online Grant Management Portal.

Organizations with active grants or pending grant applications may apply through the Racial Justice Initiative if projects are unrelated.


Applicant Resources

As your organization works through the grant application process, reference the resources below for help.



If you have any questions or would like to schedule a pre-submission conference, please contact Database Manager, Laura Spires LSpires@osbf.net.