Handbook for the Use of Contracts and Bonuses

Focus: It is intended that each person using this contract and bonus process is moving toward both self-direction and self-sufficiency. If for whatever reason that is not possible then each person is to be encouraged to move toward a supportive community to help nurture a healthy life style. If you are someone helping another person through a life-changing event then the focus of this strategy is to be a nurturing process. The contracting and subsequent bonus represents an equal player philosophy that ultimately allows people to learn from each other.


This handbook is developed for those who want to implement the use of contracts and bonuses into their programs/agencies/communities.


All material appearing in this handbook is placed in the public domain, unless otherwise noted. It may be reproduced or copied without permission from Carl DeLine. Acknowledgement of the source would be appreciated. This publication may not be reproduced or distributed for a fee without the specific, written authorization of Carl DeLine.


When this process began I lived with a quiet fear. What if people would take these concepts and use them to manipulate other people for their own purposes?

The longer I worked in this environment the more I saw my childhood experience duplicated in the lives of others. I had grown up in the welfare system and had experienced first hand the inability of a that system full of promise and potential to deliver in a way that was healthy.

Many years later I was given the opportunity to speak to a group of social workers. My opening line was: “I hate welfare with a passion but without it I would not be alive today.” In a perfect world this statement could not be true. But then, in a perfect world I would not be writing any of this. These concepts are given as a way for people to experiment and build toward taking responsibility for their own lives.

Contents of this handbook:

What is a contract?
What is a bonus?
How a contract is used.
How a bonus is used.
How this process is evolving.
A The request for Training


In the contract and bonus process the contract introduces an obligation (the desired task, goal or outcome) to oneself while being witnessed by a second party. Originally this implied the desire by a person to get off the street. Over the years it has evolved from getting off the street to getting out of crisis. As each person was contracting for a prolonged period of time the contract evolved and became focused on a person becoming settled and making life work legally.

At first people contracted for 24 months. As other groups began to adopt the contracting and bonus process the length of time changed to include both more and less then 24 months. Each month there can be eight identifiable contracts (obligations). In a 12 month period of time there is the potential for up to 100 contracts. Initially each participant could create one contract at a sitting. As the contracting time continued the number of contracts evolved to a plan for up to eight contracts in a sitting. The contracting process enabled people to move from short term planning to longer term planning.

The contracting process became a powerful tool to encourage communication. Often the young person was steeped in the cultural nuances of street life. Communication was hampered due to different meanings given to words and perspectives. The contract allowed for two people to clarify what words and goals meant in different subcultures.

This was not a case management model for one person to create directives for someone else. It was a dialogical model emphasizing the creation of an alternative direction based on joint understandings. The contract became a written statement of an intentional direction to be taken. The agency then provided a bonus.


The second part of the contract and bonus process is the bonus. For each contract created $15 was given. It is to be understood that the $15 is not a reward for carrying out the contract. The result of the contract should be a rewarding process based on the desired result. The $15 was a reward for creating the contract. It is then that the reward process becomes and encourages an incentive to keep working toward a desired outcome.


The contract and bonus process was created to augment a broken safety net. It was not created to replace the safety net. The contract and bonus process was created to add an understanding of accountability as a person participates in the overall social contract society has with her self. Nothing, no matter how it may seem is free. Somewhere, somehow someone has to pay.

How the contract works is illustrated as follows:

1. The young person on the street identifies a desire to say “I want to get off the street.”
2. This thought process continues with the potential participant seeking out The Back Door.
3. Once the potential participant states this desire to get off the street and they come to The Back Door, a contract process is started.
4. The participant then identifies a step which will point him or her away from the street.
5. The participant enters this step into the computer and/or on a contract sheet, creating what becomes a contract.
6. The participant discusses this step with a volunteer or staff person identifying, in non street words, what this contract is about.
7. The participant then receives a $15 bonus for having created this contract. The money is paid when the participant creates the contract, not after it is carried out.
8. After leaving The Back Door’s offices the participant comes back to The Back Door, discusses the success or failure of the said contract step, and begins to create yet another contract.

While this illustration applies to a young person coming off the street these same steps are being used by other groups of people in different settings. The following contract page has been adapted for use in other settings.



The amount of each bonus has differed in different settings. In the original setting each person qualified for up to eight bonuses in a month and up to 100 in a 12 month period of time. Cash was chosen as the bonus because people need money to survive. The bonus was the same form of currency used in society at large. It simply costs money to live.


Since the inception of the contract and bonus process in 1987-1988 many others have been using and continue to experiment with the use of cash incentives as a way to invest in people. The purpose of this handbook will be to invite you to consider how contracting and bonuses may benefit your community.


If you or others from your community wish to be trained in this process please make contact by filling out the following training contract. You will be trained in the use of “contracting” and recognizing the value of a simple but valuable “bonus.”

During the next days you will participate in a series of conversations about the contract and bonuses process. You will look at each of the ways this contracting is being used. You will do role playing, trial contracts and personal study on the coaching process.

If you want to know more about being trained in the contract and bonus process please fill out the information on the Contract and Bonus application. I will then contact you for an initial session on contracting.

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