The Dudley T. Dougherty Foundation

Organizing and Communication Support to Accelerate Death Penalty Abolition

Grant Information
Categories Peace , Community
Location United States
Cycle Year 2022
Organization Information
Organization Name (provided by applicant) Death Penalty Focus
Organization Name (provided by automatic EIN validation)
Death penalty focus
EIN 95-4153420
Contact Information
Contact Name Mr. David Brazil
Phone 510-504-9783
500 Capitol Mall Suite 2350
Additional Information
Used for This grant will be used to hire staff to expand our capacity in program and communications. Staff will coordinate state chapters and faith community outreach across California, as well as educational presentations via our series of webinars. We will also continue to work on national organizing and solidarity with those fighting the death penalty in currently-executing states.
Benefits This grant will accelerate abolition of the death penalty in California, which will save lives and remove an enormous financial burden from the state's taxpayers. We believe that California's abolition of the death penalty will be a turning point in the national movement to eliminate this barbaric practice once and for all. Success in abolition of the death penalty is also a victory against the structural racism we are committed to extirpating from the American criminal legal system.
Proposal Description

Death Penalty Focus is seeking a $30,000 general operating support grant from the Dudley T. Dougherty Foundation. These funds will expand our capacity to educate, organize, and support efforts to abolish the death penalty in California, at the federal level, and across the country. We will use these funds to support additional communications and program capacity, including hiring staff. All our work is aimed at abolition of the death penalty and saving lives.

History of DPF:
Founded in 1988, DPF has always led abolition efforts in California and is a trusted and faithful ally to death penalty abolition efforts and individuals facing death across the US and internationally. Each year it mobilizes its board, followers, and supporters to write to governors and pardons and parole boards seeking mercy or commutation. It authors opinion pieces, and mobilizes faith leaders, victim family members, and celebrities to speak out in opposition to the death penalty. It works to educate legislators and voters to understand the reality of the cruel, arbitrary, and racially biased death penalty system in this country.

As the only organization in California dedicated solely to death penalty abolition, DPF was the anchor organization leading the California ballot initiatives to abolish the death penalty in 2012 and 2016. Each of those initiatives lost by only a few percentage points but demonstrated that Death Penalty Focus has the capacity to lead efforts aimed at statewide abolition.

Thanks to DPF’s strategy and continued work to educate, advocate, and organize, opposition to the death penalty has increased in California. In May 2021, just five years after the defeat of the last initiative, a new poll conducted by the UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies showed that support for the death penalty was declining by approximately five percent since the initiative.

With almost 700 people on death row in California, more than any other state in this country or any country in the Western Hemisphere, our work is critical. Although the work of DPF and its allies has been successful in stopping any executions in California since 2006, the situation for people on death row remains precarious.

How we used past support from Dudley T. Dougherty Foundation

In December 2019, DPF received a general operating support grant from the Dudley T. Dougherty Foundation. Over the course of 2020, even with the interruptions caused by Covid-19 that forced us to modify our plans, DPF worked to spread the word about abolition efforts across the state and country, increased our use of social media, and hosted six virtual webinars highlighting voices of innocent people exonerated from death row, family members of murder victims, faith leaders, and prosecutors who oppose the death penalty.

We launched our new website in 2020 and organized our extensive email list to target outreach more carefully and strategically to our followers. While the database and website work are not exciting to most, it was very exciting to us because it allows us to leverage our supporters more effectively across the state and country.

We are extremely grateful to the Foundation for your partnership.

What did we do in 2022?

We are very grateful for the support the Dudley T. Dougherty Foundation provided us in 2022. This funding made it possible for us to increase our outreach and expand our programs to bring California (and other death penalty states) closer to complete abolition.

Over the last year, DPF worked to grow our email list, which is now over 100,000, and to increase our social media presence. We were able to extend our contract for another year to a communications consultant to continue creating original content that urges supporters to petition governors and parole boards for mercy or action on behalf of people sentenced to death and contact legislators to educate them about essential abolition and related criminal justice reform. We posted hundreds of messages on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Our consultant was also able to continue to produce our monthly newsletter, the Focus, with original content covering developments in criminal justice reform in California and around the country, commentary and analysis by policymakers, academics, and lawyers, and interviews with committed abolitionists, including people of faith, death row exonerees, and prisoners sentenced to death or life without parole.

We were able to extend our contract with a website management and social media strategy agency through this year, increasing the number of visits to our website, and making it possible for us to host petition drives, sponsor social media campaigns, and host a series of webinars on criminal justice issues.

In September, we hired a full-time Executive Director to replace our Interim Executive Director, giving us a full-time staff of two people for the first time in almost two years. David Brazil is a longtime community organizer and social justice activist, with the skills to reinvigorate DPF chapters around the state beginning early next year.

We also have laid the groundwork to expand our outreach to faith communities, a critical force in influencing legislators and many district attorneys, and a potentially crucial influence in the next state-wide initiative. And, working with our allies in criminal justice reform, we are in the planning stages of an outreach campaign targeting district attorneys in counties around California whose residents lean moderate-to-progressive in their voting patterns to ask that they sign a pledge sponsored by Fair and Just Prosecution to not seek death in homicide cases.

Founded in 1988, DPF has always led abolition efforts in California and is a trusted and faithful ally to death penalty abolition efforts and individuals facing death across the US and internationally. Because of the generosity of foundations like yours, we can and will continue to lead this effort, confident that we will succeed in the near future.

The next two years:

DPF has an ambitious plan for organizing in California and across the country over the next two years.

In California, we will revitalize and expand our existing state chapter system to provide local advocacy for death penalty issues in the Bay Area, Los Angeles, San Diego, and small communities.  We will also launch a death-row pen pal program which will support those directly impacted by the death penalty and mobilize volunteers towards greater participation in our work.  Funds from this grant will be used to support staff positions to organize these programs.

Additionally, we will be expanding our outreach to faith leaders and communities across the state.  We know that the voices of the faith community are essential to victory over the death penalty, so we will cultivate a core of faith leaders who can speak with elected officials, meet with district attorneys, and prepare op-eds and other persuasive communications.  We will also bring educational presentations to congregations as part of mass outreach to prepare the ground for success of a ballot initiative.

We will also continue our ongoing work of reducing the number of people sent to death row through resentencing and convincing the Governor to use his clemency powers. This strategy is in line with those in the California Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty and the November 2021 recommendations of the California Committee for the Revision of the Penal Code.

We will expand our network of exonerated men and women and find new ways to engage our vast network of supporters. We will work with our coalition partners in California to carefully monitor the political landscape in the state to prepare for the time that a successful ballot initiative can be launched. That time does not appear to be in the next two years, so we will continue to educate and organize in preparation for that critical moment.

On the national level, DPF is working with state groups across the country to support their advocacy efforts in the cases of individuals confronting the death penalty.  We plan to launch a national organizing support formation in the new year, and funds from this grant will support the work of an organizer to steward this group.

Finally, we will continue our popular series of webinars with public presentations on issues related to the death penalty.  These presentations reached hundreds of people in 2022, and we plan to expand our publicity of the series through creative collaboration so that even more people will be involved in the future.

We're very excited about the prospect of organizing these programs, and we're grateful to the foundation for considering support of the staff roles that will be required for implementation.


DPF is poised to lead death penalty abolition efforts in California and to support others around the country. We will continue to use our core tools of organizing, educating, and mobilizing. A general operating grant of $30,000 would make an enormous difference to our efforts and allow us to expand our capacity to help meet our new program plan. We are grateful for the opportunity to apply and welcome your continued partnership.

Please feel free to contact DPF's executive director David Brazil ( if there are any questions.