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Interest on Lawyers Trust Accounts (IOLTA) Grants Program

Grants to Massachusetts Nonprofits for Programs that
Support the Legal Needs of Underserved Communities

Agency Type:

Foundation / Corporation

Funding Source:

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Massachusetts Bar Foundation (MBF)

Deadline Date:

03/19/21 5:00 PM


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Grants to Massachusetts nonprofit organizations for programs that support the legal needs of underserved communities. The purpose of the funding is to provide services related to legal issues such as immigration status, discrimination, domestic violence, family law, healthcare, and housing.

All highly competitive programs will:

  • Demonstrate a well-organized and cost-effective approach.
  • Utilize technology to enhance service delivery.
  • Leverage MBF support with private bar pro bono involvement, as well as other sources of financial support (where possible), including seeking attorneys’ fees pursuant to statutory fee shifting provisions of the law.
  • Collaborate with existing programs, expanding the scope of available services and avoiding duplication of services.
  • Produce models that can attract funding from other sources, particularly governmental, and be replicated across the state.

Funding Priorities (High Priority in order):

Civil Legal Services:

  1. Programs that provide direct representation by attorneys (and 3:03 certified law students) to indigent clients on matters relating to basic subsistence needs and access to the legal system. Strong pro bono involvement can strengthen these programs, although Trustees recognize that some legal services functions are difficult to direct to pro bono attorneys.
  2. Programs that provide legal information and advice by attorneys (and 3:03 certified law students) to indigent clients.
  3. Programs that provide assistance by paralegals and certified (SAFEPLAN or Board of Immigration Appeals) advocates, supervised by attorneys, to indigent clients.

Administration of Justice:

  1. Programs that provide independent judicial education.
  2. Programs that directly impact the courts’ effectiveness, for example: mediation and conciliation programs that settle cases, consequently removing existing cases from court dockets.
  3. Programs that address systemic problems in the Massachusetts court system and include a demonstrated interface with the courts (for example, a lawyer for the day program that can help ease the strain pro se litigants place on the courts).
  4. Training or educational programs that serve as a leveraging tool for pro bono resources. Competitive training programs will not only provide legal education to attorneys, paralegals, and other legal professionals serving low-income clients in particularly complicated and overwhelmingly underserved areas of the law, but also include a mechanism to involve the newly trained legal professionals in the provision of related pro bono services for the agency at which they received the legal education or training. 

GrantWatch ID#:

GrantWatch ID#: 163694

Estimated Total Program Funding:


Number of Grants:

The MBF awards approximately 100 grants annually to nonprofit organizations in Massachusetts.

Term of Contract:

Grants are awarded for one year only from September 1 through August 31.

Additional Eligibility Criteria:

The Massachusetts Bar Foundation awards IOLTA grants only to Massachusetts organizations—no funding is available for individuals. Priority is given to 501(c)(3) organizations, although other nonprofit organizations with charitable programs that fit the Foundation’s guidelines may also receive funding. Typically, grants are awarded to legal service and law-related agencies, as well as to various nonprofit organizations across the state. In rare cases, public agencies, established by governmental entities under statutory authorization, may receive funding for pilot programs that will ultimately receive public funding. No other type of entity is eligible for funding.

Please be advised that under Supreme Judicial Court rule, the Massachusetts Bar Foundation cannot support any social service components of an applicant’s proposed program. In addition, please note that the Foundation’s Trustees are sensitive to the unlicensed practice of law or the appearance thereof. Funding requests for non-attorney positions must include detailed information regarding direct attorney supervision of that position.

The Massachusetts Bar Foundation does not provide IOLTA grants for activities relating to criminal law. In addition, Foundation funds may not be used for fundraising activities related to political, endowment, scholarship, and capital campaigns.

Types of Programs Deemed Non-Competitive for IOLTA funding by the MBF Board:
- Alternative sentencing programs
- Court-ordered supervised visitation centers
- Court sponsored programs (The MBF does not typically provide funding directly to a government agency or entity)
- Free standing conferences
- Free standing research and/or studies
- Juvenile or criminal diversion programs
- Legal services to businesses and other economic development organizations/initiatives
- Mediation programs that focus on disputes that have not yet reached the court system or are not likely to reach the court system
- Mock trial and law-related education programs, particularly for high school students
- Programs run by student organizations (secondary, undergraduate or graduate level)
- Programs that provide legal education to attorneys, paralegals, and other legal professionals serving low-income clients if the program’s purpose is solely to provide the education rather than use this education to leverage pro bono resources
- Social service advocacy programs for court-involved individuals
- Stipend programs for law student internships or clinics
- Translation services

Substantially Less Competitive (Civil Legal Services):
- Programs that provide legal information and advice by non-attorney/non-legal professional advocates-in spite of the fact that some may be supervised by attorneys and/or have referral agreements with legal services agencies.
- Programs that seek funding to add an attorney position within a non-legal organization/program staff, especially those within close geographic proximity to an existing legal services agency (i.e., attorney operating in isolation and duplication of services).

Pre-Application Information:

Applications Due: March 19, 2021, 5:00 pm
Decision Notification: July 2021
First Half of Funds Distributed: Oct. 2021
Mid-year Report: Due Feb. 18, 2022
Second Half of Funds Distributed: March 2022
Final Report Due: Sept. 23, 2022

New applicants are encouraged to contact the MBF to discuss their proposal prior to submission.

Contact Information:

Before starting your grant application, please review the funding source's website listed below for updates/changes/addendums/conferences/LOIs.

Please submit your Application PDF via email to

Please contact the MBF Grants Office at 617-338-0534 or via the email address listed above.

URL for Full Text (RFP):

Geographic Focus:

USA: Massachusetts

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