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Interest on Lawyers Trust Accounts (IOLTA) Grants Program

Grants to Massachusetts Nonprofits for Law-Related
Programs to Benefit Underserved Populations

Agency Type:

Foundation / Corporation

Funding Source:

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Massachusetts Bar Foundation (MBF)

Conf. Date:


Deadline Date:

03/08/19 5:00 PM Receipt


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Grants to Massachusetts nonprofits to provide civil legal services to low-income persons and improve the administration of justice. Funding is intended to provide essential assistance to the disadvantaged to address legal issues including housing, domestic violence, child advocacy, immigration status, family law, discrimination, and health care.

The Massachusetts Bar Foundation invites applications for projects that contribute to the following objectives:
- Provide civil legal services to low-income persons on issues where there is an identifiable and unmet need, or conduct activities contributing directly to the improvement in the administration of justice in Massachusetts;
- Demonstrate a well-organized, cost-effective approach that does not duplicate other services;
- Enlist the pro bono support of the private bar;
- Serve particularly underserved areas of the Commonwealth; and
- Include collaborative efforts with both the court system and other organizations.

Categories for Funding

A. Civil Legal Services
Approximately 75% of the Massachusetts Bar Foundation’s IOLTA funds will be used to support programs that provide civil legal services to the Commonwealth’s disadvantaged and/or low-income populations.

Highly competitive projects in this program area will provide direct representation by an attorney and advocacy to low-income clients on matters relating to basic subsistence needs and access to the legal system.

Trustees prefer to support civil legal service initiatives that collaborate with existing programs, thereby expanding the scope of available services and avoiding any duplication of services. All civil legal service programs are expected to leverage Foundation support with private bar pro bono involvement, as well as with other sources of financial support to the greatest extent possible.

B. Administration of Justice
Approximately 25% of the Massachusetts Bar Foundation’s IOLTA funding will be awarded for programs that improve the administration of justice in Massachusetts.

Highly competitive projects in this program area will address systemic problems in the Massachusetts court system and include a demonstrated interface with the courts.

The Massachusetts Bar Foundation awards IOLTA grants for initiatives with clear, quantifiable objectives. Consequently, all applicants should include evaluation plans designed to identify program outcomes and impact.

The Foundation prefers to support specific projects or programs; it does not provide support for general operating expenses. Exceptions to this policy are made only in special cases. In addition, MBF Trustees favor funding programs that minimize overhead costs and demonstrate a sound, long-term funding plan. Please note that an organization’s track record in serving racially diverse, low-income populations is also taken into consideration during the review

GrantWatch ID#:

GrantWatch ID#: 163694

Estimated Total Program Funding:


Number of Grants:

Approximately 100

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 non-government 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.

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.

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.

Pre-proposal Conference:

Information session on the application process - Feb. 7, at 2 pm, at the Mass. Bar Association, 20 West Street, Boston

Please RSVP to if you would like to attend.

Pre-Application Information:

Applications must be submitted no later than 5:00 p.m. on March 8, 2019.

Organizations may submit multiple grant applications for distinct programs, but are encouraged to consolidate requests whenever possible. Organizations also may submit applications for renewed funding of previously supported programs.

- Applications Due: March 8, 2019
- Decision Notification: July 2019
- First Half of Funds Distributed: Oct. 2019
- Mid-year Report Due: Feb. 14, 2020
- Second Half of Funds Distributed: March 2020
- Final Report Due: Sept. 25, 2020

Contact Information:

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

Submit your application by mail or by hand to:

2019/2020 IOLTA Application
Massachusetts Bar Foundation
20 West Street
Boston, MA 02111-1204

URL for Full Text (RFP):

Geographic Focus:

USA: Massachusetts