Strategic Opportunities Fund

Strategic Opportunities Fund is no longer accepting applications for the 2012 grantmaking cycle. Information regarding upcoming cycles will be published here as it becomes available. Please visit again soon.

The Strategic Opportunities Fund serves as a core fund of U.S. Programs and is discretionary in nature, responding to timely opportunities that impact issues relevant to the overall mission of U.S. Programs. In general work taken up by the fund is time-limited, with commitments to specific initiatives not extending beyond three years. In 2012, the fund is undertaking a discrete initiative that seeks to reduce the inappropriate and harmful use of suspensions, expulsions, and arrests in public schools in an effort to dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline.

Eligibility Criteria

The Strategic Opportunities Fund will consider letters of inquiry (LOI) for campaigns or strategic communications initiatives as well as from advocacy groups, coalitions, scholarly or research institutions, and nonprofit associations that aim to build public will to dismantle the school to prison pipeline.

The Strategic Opportunities Fund is interested in work that utilizes the following strategies:

  • Coalition building amongst various stakeholders;
  • Public awareness and strategic communications;
  • Research, data collection, and analysis related to policy generation and implementation;
  • Model programs that support the implementation and evaluation of alternative school climate and discipline models.

The fund will consider letters of inquiry from organizations or projects that demonstrate that the proposed activities have clear and demonstrable potential for national impact and/or replication in other localities.

Ineligibility Criteria

The Strategic Opportunities Fund does not provide funding for:

  • Direct services;
  • Lobbying activities;
  • Annual fundraising drives;
  • Projects undertaken by individuals, including fellowships;
  • Capital costs, including equipment or real estate purchases or renovations; 
  • Film production or post-production.
Purpose and Priorities

The Strategic Opportunities Fund recognizes that changing public school policies and practices requires national, state-level, and local efforts and is particularly interested in supporting organizations that work at multiple policy levels to address policies and practices that serve, often unintentionally, to reinforce the school-to-prison pipeline, including zero-tolerance school discipline codes, use of the juvenile justice system by schools to address minor youth misbehavior, and certain provisions of federal policy. In the next several months, the Strategic Opportunities Fund will undertake grantmaking that will capitalize on recent policy initiatives at the federal level to build public will to reform policies and practices that have resulted in increasing numbers of students being suspended, expelled and arrested in schools. Of particular interest are efforts that aim to:

  • Build consensus and public will for action among federal, state and local education and justice stakeholders;
  • Collaborate  on research and data collection that can help inform and shape policy, such as evaluations of alternative disciplinary policies and interventions;
  • Develop guidance to ensure school discipline policies and practices are in line with the federal civil rights laws;
  • Develop targeted communications and messaging that will help to build public will for necessary reforms that address school climate issues.

To be considered for funding, applicants who meet the eligibility criteria should email a complete letter of inquiry to

Letters of inquiry may be up to four (4) pages in length including a project budget (the latter for the current fiscal year).  Please do not submit supporting materials such as brochures, press clips, newsletters, and annual reports.

All letters of inquiry must include:

  • Title Page
  • A description of the organization that would undertake the proposed project;
  • A description of the project for which funds are sought, including a specific description of how the project's goals will be achieved;
  • A description of how the proposed project will advance the organization's broader mission;
  • A description of the organization's track record in advancing policies and practices aimed at dismantling the school to prison pipeline;
  • A preliminary project budget and amount requested;
  • A list of any confirmed or potential project partners. 

The program requests that all materials be submitted electronically in Word, Excel or Adobe Acrobat format.  Incomplete inquiries will NOT be considered.