Several CASA programs in Arizona got a special funding boost from the Victims of Crime Act that will allow for some much-needed support in 2016. In all, six programs in Arizona received nearly $750,000 in VOCA funds. Most of the money will go toward supporting existing CASA volunteers by hiring new coordinators and improving online systems.
CASA of Maricopa County will use the monies to complete their website, hire a coordinator, and hire a community liaison to partner with stakeholders and troubleshoot any issues CASA advocates may face. Pima County, which also received grant funds from National CASA, will increase outreach efforts with advertisements and will hire two new staff members. In Pinal, Yavapai and Gila counties funds will be used to hire new coordinators to better serve more advocates. CASA of Arizona also received some grant funds which will be used to improve CASAaz, the state's web-based case management system designed for use by staff and advocates. CASAaz makes communication with program staff and the court easier and is in the process of being rolled out statewide.
While the applications took time and effort, CASA staff said they'd happily do it all again.
"It's the only way that we can grow is to provide infrastructure to our CASA program," said Justine Grabowsky of CASA of Maricopa County. "Doing that we can support our advocates better, the ones we have now, and we can bring on more because our coordinators won't be doing so much other work interviewing, processing applicants and finding cases for them. That's going to be awesome."
The key to writing a good grant proposal, county staff said, is keeping it interesting and meeting all the requirements outlined in the application.
"I always try to put myself in the position of the person who is reading it," said Chris Swenson-Smith, Division Director in Pima County. "You don't want it to be boring. You want it to have a little bit of an emotional appeal while still being logical and having very specific, measurable goals... Every grant, for me, I look at as a little bit of a research project to help make us better."
Each grant application asked for very specific goals, costs and timelines that the recipients will need to meet throughout 2016. Grants are funded for one year from Oct. 1, 2015 to Sept. 30, 2016 and may be renewed for an additional 12-month award period.
CASA programs in Arizona receive 30 percent of unclaimed lottery winnings and depend on grants for any additional funding. Arizona's CASA programs, which are organized under the court system, cannot accept outside donations.