Money Growing banner image

A guide to grants and the courts

October 5, 2020

Grants are excellent opportunities for growth and sustainability when approached as part of the court’s sustainability plan. They can be used to launch a new program, support a one-time project, provide training and technical assistance, conduct research, expand existing services (e.g., number served, targeted demographics, new region or area, new services, etc.), provide emergency funding in extraordinary circumstances, and provide support for ongoing activities through block grants. Grants should be a part of a larger strategy of sustainability and system reform. Four key steps when starting the grant process include:

1. Collaborate

Always ensure that grant planning is contemplative, collaborative, strategic, and mission directed. Collaboration with other system stakeholders is necessary for a successful outcome and is often a requirement of federal grants. This means coming together to develop policies, solve problems, and implement innovative solutions. Collaboration can be particularly difficult in the criminal justice system where system stakeholders are often in adversarial roles.

2. Strategize

  • Be proactive
  • Be protective
  • Focus on court innovation
  • Include internal and external partners

3. Identify Service Gaps and Partnerships

Identify the issue, resource, or service gaps within the court. Ideally, these will already be included within the court’s strategic plan. The area identified may benefit the court directly, indirectly, or peripherally. Partnerships open up more opportunities and can increase the chances of a project being funded. Partners may be able to apply for grants courts are otherwise ineligible for.

4. Locate Opportunities

Do not limit the scope of grant research to federal or state agencies that are already familiar. Sources for Grants include:

  • Federal Grants from one of the 26 grant-making agencies, details of which can be found on Grants.gov
  • State and Local Grant Opportunities. These are not centrally located and the application processes are not standardized, as a result they can require more diligence and vigilance. Many state agencies administer federal programs making the local state administrating agency a good place to start. Local sources include municipal governments, service organizations, businesses, and national organizations.
  • Nonprofit Institutions & Foundations

⭐⭐⭐ Tip   ⭐⭐⭐

Ensure your registration in the System for Awards Management is current

The September 2020 edition of Trends: Close Up takes a deeper dive into the grant process including a helpful list of resources for locating local and nonprofit grants, a guide to the grant application, tips on writing the grant application, grant management, performance measurement, and evaluation during the grant, communicating success, and refining the process. For more on developing a strategic plan please read the Role of Strategic Planning and Strategic Management in the Courts.

For more information on the grant process contact Laura G. Klaversma with Court Consulting Services or call (303) 308-4301. For more information on other topics impacting state courts, contact Knowledge@ncsc.org or call 800-616-6164

How has your court addressed grants and grant management? Follow the National Center for State Courts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest, and share your experiences.