The Access to Justice Grants application process is administered through our online grant lifecycle manager.  All interested organizations must register and submit their application through the portal here.

Once logged on, you will find the “Apply” button at the top of the dashboard.

Access to Justice Grants are awarded on a yearly basis.  Board decisions are made in the Spring for a yearly grant cycle of July 1-June 30.

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Grant Eligibility

The Illinois Bar Foundation awards grants only to 501(c)(3) organizations that serve the State of Illinois and conduct work within IBF’s grant program objectives.

Application Instructions

The Illinois Bar Foundation utilizes a two-step grant process that includes a letter of inquiry followed by an invitation to submit a full grant application.

Step One: Letter of Inquiry

Interested organizations must submit a Letter of Inquiry (LOI) through the online portal. ​The purpose of this step is to provide an opportunity for the applicant to briefly introduce the organization and project to the Illinois Bar Foundation, and for the Grants Committee to evaluate whether or not the project fits squarely within the organization’s funding objectives and priorities. Only one LOI per organization will be accepted per funding cycle.

Step Two: Full Application

After evaluating the LOI, the Illinois Bar Foundation will invite selected organizations to submit a full grant application online. Only those organizations selected will have access to the online application. An invitation to submit a full application should not be interpreted as a guarantee of funding.  Rather, the Illinois Bar Foundation will identify those organizations that the Foundation determines are eligible for funding and/or those which require further evaluation.

Program Objectives

Grants awarded by the Illinois Bar Foundation will support one of three organizational objectives:

  1. Enhance the availability of civil legal aid to those of limited means. Projects funded under this category assist Illinois residents with limited means to resolve their civil legal problems in the most effective way possible. Programs addressing areas of greatest need or with the greatest impact will receive priority.
  2. Encourage pro-bono legal work. Projects funded under this category facilitate pro bono opportunities; provide educational opportunities for pro bono attorneys; or recognize and help sustain the efforts of current pro bono attorneys.
  3. Educate Illinois residents regarding their rights and responsibilities under the law. Projects funded under this category create informational materials for unrepresented Illinois residents with civil legal problems.

The Illinois Bar Foundation funds organizations or projects with a statewide, regional or local impact. All organizations must show evidence of the need and impact of their program. The Illinois Bar Foundation will entertain projects with a new or innovative approach that require seed money to launch as well as programs that result from collaboration among multiple organizations. New projects must demonstrate their viability by identifying support (financial or other) from the communities they are intended to serve. The Foundation will fund general operating expenses only when the organization’s mission fits squarely within the Illinois Bar Foundation’s grant program objectives. Otherwise, IBF grants will be restricted to specific programmatic support.

Excluded Activities

For those organizations, projects or programs that do fall within the grant program objectives identified above, the Illinois Bar Foundation will not fund:

  1. Projects that do not directly serve residents of the State of Illinois
  2. Projects providing legal aid for criminal matters
  3. Endowment campaigns
  4. Political activities that are inconsistent with the organization’s tax-exempt status
  5. Fundraising benefits or mass appeal solicitations
  6. Sectarian organizations (unless participation in the program is not limited by religious affinity)
  7. Scholarships for individuals

Evaluation Criteria

Proposals submitted to the Illinois Bar Foundation will be evaluated based on the following criteria:

  • The relative importance of the program to the Foundation’s objectives.
  • The geographic area served by the program and local access to similar services.
  • The results and/or impact of the program on the issue it addresses.
  • The availability of funding from other sources.
  • Whether Foundation funding will leverage funds from other sources.
  • Whether the organization is doing an effective job of coordinating its services with other similar organizations.
  • The involvement of the legal community in the program.
  • Whether the organization is efficient and well managed.
  • The capability of the organization to successfully manage the program.
  • Whether the Foundation grant will have a material impact on the organization’s operating budget.
  • Whether the organization has mechanisms in place to regularly evaluate and improve the quality of the services it provides.

Application Deadlines

The FY22 Grants Cycle has the following deadlines:

Fall 2021 – Letter of Inquiry  application due to the online portal

December 2021 – Select organizations will be invited to submit a full application through the online portal

January/February 2022 – Full Grant Applications must be submitted through the online portal

April/May 2022 – Board decisions will be announced

For More Information

For more information about the Illinois Bar Foundation’s grant guidelines and procedures, contact Stacey Jonas Weiler at 312-920-4693 or sweiler@illinoisbarfoundation.org.