This post is part of a series, ‘Galvanizing the Civic Sector to Reduce Gun Violence.’ The series focuses on what several sectors – including parents, teens, schools, hospitals, the faith community and city leaders – can do, independent of state and federal legislative activity, to reduce violence and the number of gun-related deaths.
Most private or business-related foundations do not list violence prevention among their top funding priorities. However, if one views violence prevention work through a wide lens, then many if not most foundations play some role in helping to reduce violence. In point of fact, if one sees violence prevention as stopping crime and helping to build vital communities that do not generate crime, then initiatives such as mentoring, afterschool programs, family support, job training and neighborhood improvement all can and do fit under the rubric of violence prevention. The potency of such initiatives is maximized if they are part of a comprehensive citywide plan blending prevention, intervention, enforcement and reentry.
Because of its ability to move fast, take risks and tailor the work to community realities, the private sector’s participation in violence prevention is essential. America, with five percent of the world’s population, locks up 25 percent of the world’s prisoners. At a cost of $80 billion, one in every 107 Americans was behind bars and one in every 34 was under correctional supervision at the end of 2011. On the basis of these staggering prison costs, and realizing the status quo is neither effective nor efficient, those on both sides of the political spectrum now argue together for fundamental changes. Attorney General Eric Holder’s recent critique of “draconian mandatory minimums,” which result in the warehousing of low-level offenders, signals a growing consensus that the U.S. must reduce its excessive dependence on incarceration. This shift will mean, in part, an increased demand for proven, evidence-based community programs that affix responsibility and provide help for such offenders.
Activists and policymakers at the local, state and federal levels will almost certainly turn to the private sector for help, and local officials should balance their needs with an assessment of what particular foundations stand for and what they have funded in the past. City leaders who are spearheading violence prevention efforts must think pragmatically, too. Low crime and little fear mean citizens are unafraid to shop; a violence-free environment is good for business. Local businesses should be among a city’s active partners.
Finally, city leaders can show potential supporters how their investment connects to others. Single interventions are okay, but limited unless part of a larger context. Showing funders how their support fits into a comprehensive plan, how it will be leveraged, increases the chances of securing funding.
What Factors have Brought Foundations in to Work on Violence Prevention Efforts?
Interviews with leaders of national and state-based foundations suggest a multitude of factors that are motivating the philanthropic sector to engage in violence prevention work: