OSBF's Racial Justice Initiative

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.

Additional funding opportunities through the Racial Justice Initiative will be available in 2022, with the next deadline set for Sept 2, 2022. 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



The next application deadline is September 2, 2022. 

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, II, III, and IV grant recipients


During Phase I 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. 


phase ii

During Phase II of the Racial Justice Initiative grant cycle, 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.

phase  iii

During Phase III of the Racial Justice Initiative grant cycle, the OSBF awarded 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.


phase  iV

During Phase IV of the Racial Justice Initiative grant cycle, the OSBF awarded the following:

$50,000 to Case Western Reserve University for the Criminal Sentencing Project; a study that seeks to illuminate inequities for Black and brown individuals who have undergone criminal sentencing in Cuyahoga County between 2010-2020 with the goal of promoting positive change in racial equity in the actions of judges.

$50,000 to Case Western Reserve University for School of Law Racial Justice Fellowships which will provide opportunities for law students to work with nonprofit organizations that serve marginalized populations and promote racial justice. This program will benefit community partners that do not have the resources to provide paid internships while providing valuable work experience to the law students.

$20,000 to Health Policy Institute of Ohio to support the creation of the second policy brief in a series on the connection between criminal justice and health. This research will focus on initial court hearings, pretrial detention, and the bail system.



$50,000 to Innovation Ohio Education Fund for the Justice Agenda for Black Women and Girls in Ohio Project. This research will shine a spotlight on ways in which systemic racism within the legal and criminal justice systems impacts Black women and girls and look for proactive solutions to address those barriers.


$32,392 to Ohio Access to Justice Foundation for its Improving Access to Justice in Ohio's Civil Legal Arena project which will convene stakeholders to identify legal issues impacting communities of color and create action plans that eliminate systemic barriers around issues in the civil justice system such as child support, debt and financing, sealing of records, and access to fair and affordable housing.



$54,963 to the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity to support the Opportunity Mapping for Inclusion project. This study will equip policymakers with the data they need to eliminate racial inequality in housing and development, and provide the tools to reform zoning updates with the end goal of creating more equitable and just communities in Ohio.


phase  V

During Phase V of the Racial Justice Initiative grant cycle, the OSBF awarded the following:


Forever Brighter | Kent State University


$49,642 to the Kent State University Foundation which will bring together leaders from Black communities and from law enforcement agencies to evaluate and revise existing police training through the Kent State Basic Police Officer Training Academy. This project will hold community forums and create continuing professional training for police officers. The feedback from these forums will then be used to evaluate and revise existing police training through the Kent State program and develop new continuing professional training for existing officers. Funding will support the first year of a multi-year project. This project will serve Summit, Portage, Mahoning and Columbiana counties.



Mental Health & Addiction Advocacy Coalition - MHAC Ohio

$41,400.00 to the Mental Health & Addiction Advocacy Coalition for its Racial and Ethnic Equity and Behavioral Health: Research, Reports, and Action research project to identify areas of racial and ethnic inequity in Ohio’s community behavioral health system by collecting and analyzing available data and making recommendations to improve data collection and eliminate the disparity, inequity, and negative impact that result in poor outcomes for minority populations. The report will suggest strategies to improve data collection to help eliminate disparities, examine possible solutions, and make practical and actionable recommendations. Partnering organizations include Central State University, Multiethnic Advocates for Cultural Competence, and Ohio University. This project will serve all counties statewide.




The next application deadline is September 2, 2022. 


If you have any questions or would like to schedule a pre-submission conference, please contact Grants and Database Manager, Laura Spires [email protected]