Catalyst Homepage - Fall 2023

Catalyst Grant Program
Request for Proposals and Application Portal

Issues around inequality and the criminal legal system pose fundamental societal questions about bias, fairness, and equity. Racism and racial biases are embedded in the criminal legal system and lead to disproportionate harm to communities of color, particularly the Black community. The Urban Institute and the Microsoft Justice Reform Initiative are collaborating on the Catalyst Grant Program to help nonprofits address these inequities by using data and technology to advance racial equity and reform at the front end of the adult criminal legal system. 

We are seeking proposals for local projects that advance the focus areas of the Microsoft Justice Reform Initiative, which include supporting policies, programs, and practices that prevent unnecessary system involvement and decrease racial and ethnic disparities in policing and prosecution. We look forward to hearing from organizations across the United States who want to join the 64 grantees from three previous cohorts as they work to deploy technology and analysis, visualization, and dissemination of data toward better systems and outcomes for all people.

Why Apply? 

  • Make a Difference: Make meaningful progress on racial equity and fairness where you live and work.
  • Financial Support: Access funds to carry out your project vision in your community.
  • Project Support: Receive expert assistance from Microsoft and Urban to help your project succeed.
  • Peer Network: Join a community and share insights with passionate nonprofits working toward the same goals.
  • National Platform: Amplify your impact as the Catalyst Grant Program shares project stories with a national audience. 

A summary of the Program Requirements, Key Dates, and How to Learn More is below.

You can access the full Request for Proposals (RFP) here and FAQs here (PDF).  
The required Budget Spreadsheet is 

Proposals are due Friday, November 17, 2023.

Sign up here to get reminders and information to help you with this RFP and updates on opportunities and topics related to the program.  You can also register for and view informational webinars: an RFP Overview on Oct. 18 (view recording and slides) and technology workshops on Oct. 24th and 26th (recording here and slides here).  

Catalyst Grant Program Summary

Purpose of Solicitation

To support local activities related to advancing racial equity and reform in the front end of the adult criminal legal system through data and technology. 

Lead Organization Eligibility

Locally embedded 501(c)(3) organizations based in the U.S., excluding colleges and universities. We have a focus on those organizations embedded in communities of color, particularly Black communities. Lead organizations may include partner organizations that do not meet lead organization eligibility criteria in their proposals.

Award and Benefits

Selected applicants will receive $40,000 in grant funds; assistance on data, policy, and community engagement from the Urban Institute; access to Microsoft technology and related support; and peer learning opportunities.

RFP Issue Date

Monday, October 2, 2023

Deadline for Proposals

Friday, November 17, 2023, 8:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time

Application Process and Content

You will need to register and submit your application through the grant application website: A full list of application questions and instructions are in Appendix A of the RFP.  Given word limits for the 10 narrative questions, application responses are expected to total roughly five pages.

Project Topic Requirements

Projects must focus on reform and racial equity in the front end of the criminal legal system (i.e., prevention, policing, and prosecution).  Projects must also incorporate data and technology and be locally focused. Additional information on eligibility is in the Project Topic Requirements section of the RFP and in the FAQs. 

Grants will not be given to projects that specifically focus on:  

  • people under 18 years of age;  
  • people who are currently incarcerated;  
  • people returning from incarceration; or 
  • activities at the state or national level.

Webinar: RFP Overview 

An optional informational webinar will be held October 18, 2023 from 3:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time (view recording and slides).

Microsoft Technology Use: Benefits and Workshop

Projects are not required to use Microsoft technology, but projects that use Microsoft technology in ways that are integral to the proposed data and technology activities will be eligible for additional in-kind technology access and support. 

Workshops to learn more about relevant Microsoft technology will be available on October 24 and October 26 (recording here and slides here).   

Deadline for Questions

Additional useful details are available in the FAQs.  You may also send questions to

The deadline for submitting questions about project topics, eligibility, or other RFP content is Wednesday, November 15, 2023, at 8:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. We will be posting FAQ updates on the grant application website and the Urban Institute will continue to answer technical questions related to the grant application website until the proposal deadline.

Notice of Decision to Applicants and Project Award

April 2024

Timing of Project Activities

May 2024–December 2024

  • Preparation phase: May 2024–June 2024
  • Project execution (with project assistance and cohort activities): July 2024–December 2024