The Chicago Bar Foundation’s annual Investing in Justice Campaign is a an annual campaign where the entire legal community comes together around our common cause as a legal profession: helping to ensure that everyone has access to necessary legal help, not just people who can afford it. 100% of individual contributions to the Campaign go directly toward CBF grants that advance this purpose. All contributions are tax-deductible and can be counted for purposes of the Illinois Supreme Court Pro Bono Reporting Rule.
Thousands of individual lawyers and legal professionals at law firms and corporations throughout the Chicago area participated in the Campaign in each of the first ten years, collectively contributing more than $13 million to support the work of our community’s pro bono and legal aid organizations and their dedicated attorneys. And those contributions have leveraged millions more in funds in support for pro bono and legal aid though matching contributions and the CBF’s grants process.
Why is the Campaign necessary?
There are three underlying premises for the Campaign. First, while we all support a wide variety of worthy causes in our community, ensuring that all people in our community have equal access to the justice system is our common cause as lawyers. If we as a legal community don’t take the lead in this cause, who will?
Second, while our collective efforts help tens of thousands of people get critical legal assistance, the need is still great: less than half of the roughly 700,000 low-income people in the Chicago area who will face a legal problem this year will be able to get legal help due to a lack of capacity
Finally, while we all have important roles to play as individuals (doing pro bono work, providing direct support to the many outstanding pro bono and legal aid organizations serving our community), we can make a big impact by coming together as a legal community through the Campaign in a way that none of us could on our own.
How much need is there for pro bono and legal aid services in our community?
There are now more than 1.4 million low-income Cook County residents–more than 1 in 4 people in the Chicago area–who are eligible for legal aid services. Studies have shown that about half of the people who qualify for legal aid will have a civil legal need over the course of a given year. That means we can expect approximately 700,000 people in the Chicago area to have a legal need this year.
Out of the 42,000 lawyers practicing in Chicago area, there are only a little more than 300 full-time lawyers working in legal aid. As a result of this limited capacity, more than half of low-income and disadvantage people who seek legal assistance that is often critical to their safety and independence are turned away and left to solve complex legal problems on their own.
Who are the people who depend on our community’s pro bono and legal aid organizations?
The low-income and disadvantaged people who depend on our community’s pro bono and legal aid organizations include women and children victimized by domestic violence; Veterans facing immediate legal issues in returning to their jobs and families after serving our country; seniors who are struggling due to predatory lending and other consumer fraud; and many other vulnerable people in our community.
Why is it called “Investing in Justice”?
“Investing in Justice” is not just a catchy title for the Campaign. Contributions to the Campaign truly are a great investment.
A recent study found that legal aid in Illinois produces almost a 2:1 return on investment. The study’s relatively small sample of organizations alone produced economic benefits of more than $70 million in a year.
By obtaining protective orders, divorces, child custody and legal recognition for noncitizens experiencing abuse, a sampling of legal aid providers in the study avoided $9.4 million in costs of domestic violence to individuals.
By assisting clients with foreclosures, evictions or other housing issues, just a small sample of legal aid providers avoided $1.9 million in costs related to homelessness.
Studies consistently show that in contested matters in court, the outcome often turns on whether or not a low-income or disadvantaged person has representation.
Multiple studies have shown that the single greatest factor affecting whether an asylum seeker wins or loses in immigration courts is whether the applicant has a lawyer. Unrepresented immigrants are three to ten times less likely to receive asylum than those represented by counsel.
In special education due process hearings, a study found that if a parent is not represented by a lawyer, the parent and child lose 80% of the time. Those represented by an attorney win about 50% of the time.
Why is this so important right now?
As lawyers and legal professionals, we uniquely understand the importance of having an advocate and the very different outcomes for those who have access to legal assistance and those who do not. Whether low-income and disadvantaged people have access to the legal help they need could mean the difference between shelter and homelessness; medical assistance and unnecessary physical suffering; food on a family’s table and hunger; economic stability and bankruptcy; productive work and unemployment.
How will my contribution make a difference?
I support a lot of other good causes, why should I also support the Campaign?
While we are all asked to support a number of worthy causes throughout the year, this is our one common cause as a legal community. The justice system is our “home turf” as a profession, and we have both the responsibility and the power to make a real difference in our community through the Campaign. If we as lawyers and legal professionals don’t take the lead in this cause, no one else will.
I already contribute generously to the CBF. Why should I also support the Campaign?
The Campaign and the grants it makes possible play a distinct role in the CBF’s larger efforts. Using a mix of grants, advocacy, pro bono and partnerships, the CBF pursues a two-pronged strategy to carry out its mission:
Supporting proven solutions that have an immediate impact
The Campaign addresses that first prong of the CBF’s overall approach in a very targeted way. 100% of every individual donation to the Campaign is given out in CBF grants that provide vital support to our community’s pro bono and legal aid organizations, and your support of the Campaign directly benefits those organizations. Your other support for the CBF addresses the second prong of the CBF’s overall approach while also making a much broader array of CBF programs possible that both complement your Campaign contribution and help maximize the Campaign’s overall impact.
How will my contribution to the Campaign make a difference?
The Campaign is a unique opportunity to invest in the entire pro bono and legal aid system serving our community with one contribution and make an impact that none of us could on our own. With one gift to the Campaign, you support all of our community’s many outstanding legal aid organizations; help the dedicated attorneys remaining in or pursuing legal aid careers; make it possible for pro bono attorneys to most effectively supplement the work of the overstretched legal aid lawyers; and underwrite innovative projects that make our justice system more user-friendly and accessible for people in need.
While it might not seem like your individual contribution could make a real difference, even a $100 contribution makes it possible for several people in need get brief legal advice and assistance that often is enough to resolve their issue, and larger contributions enable people in our community to get help with more complex legal problems.
When your contribution is combined with thousands of other supporters of the Campaign (and the many firms and corporations that are matching individual contributions), the collective impact is even more impressive. The collective pool of funds raised by the Campaign enables the CBF to directly leverage hundreds of thousands more in funding from other foundations and local government while improving the overall pro bono and legal aid system for everyone’s benefit.
Why shouldn’t I just donate directly to one of the organizations supported by the Campaign?
The Campaign is not a replacement for what we do as individual lawyers, law firms and corporations to support this cause; rather, it is recognition that by coming together as a legal community we have a unique opportunity to make an impact we could not with individual donations.
In addition to 100% of every dollar of your individual donation to the Investing in Justice Campaign going directly to the organizations supported by the Campaign, your contribution has an even greater impact:
Your contributions leverage several hundred thousand dollars in support from other foundations and government entities that would not otherwise be available to the organizations supported by the Campaign.
Your contribution benefits from the CBF’s rigorous grants process, which strategically allocates funds to make the biggest difference for people in need. Afterwards, the CBF also ensures accountability and cooperation among organizations to maximize the impact of your investment for the long term.
I already do pro bono work, isn’t that enough?
Your commitment to doing pro bono work is a critical part of your role as a trustee of the justice system, and we commend you for it. For pro bono to be effective, however, we need strong legal aid organizations as partners, and investing in their work by providing financial backing and other support is a necessary complement to doing pro bono work. Legal aid organizations provide the necessary infrastructure to support pro bono work for area lawyers and legal professionals, including client screening, referral, training and support functions for volunteers. Legal aid programs also provide critical legal assistance to the most vulnerable members of our community in matters where specialization and expertise is necessary and pro bono is not a practical solution.
How will the CBF use my contribution to the Campaign?
100% of the individual Campaign contributions again will go directly for CBF grants that make an impact in a variety of ways: strengthening our community’s many outstanding legal aid organizations; helping the dedicated attorneys pursuing legal aid careers; making it possible for pro bono attorneys to most effectively supplement the work of their legal aid counterparts; and making the justice system more user-friendly and accessible for people in need.
How is it that 100% of my individual contribution goes directly to grants?
There are two ways the CBF is able to ensure that 100% of individual contributions go directly to CBF grants to our community’s pro bono and legal aid organizations. First, the Campaign Chair’s company is donating tremendous amounts of pro bono and in-kind resources for the Campaign brochures, toolkits, meetings and events; and other Campaign participants and partners make generous volunteer and in-kind contributions as well.
Second, participating firms, companies and organizations in the Campaign also are making contributions that enable the CBF to donate all of the necessary staff, costs and infrastructure to administer the Campaign. If you donate online, you also will have the opportunity to cover the costs of your credit card processing, one of the larger expenses in the Campaign that will allow even more of the firm and company contributions to go towards the cause.
How does the CBF decide where and how the Campaign funds are distributed?
What kinds of CBF grants are made possible by the Campaign?
More than 2/3 of the money raised in the Campaign goes towards general operating support grants to about 33 pro bono and legal aid organizations providing important legal services in our community.
This type of funding is critical to the success of any good nonprofit organization and typically is the hardest money for them to raise, which is why it is prioritized in the Campaign.
Through the CBF’s comprehensive grants process, Campaign donors collectively help establish standards and best practices for all pro bono and legal aid organizations receiving funds while at the same time helping to ensure coordination and accountability.
The remaining funds from the Campaign go towards a variety of project grants that accomplish more targeted objectives like maximizing the impact of pro bono in meeting community needs and improving access to the courts through advice desks and related programs.
The collective impact of the Campaign contributions makes it possible to invest in and advance proven solutions to move the system forward through these project grants.
These project grants are able to leverage hundreds of thousands in additional support as well. Of the roughly $500,000 from last year’s Campaign that went towards project grants, the CBF was able to leverage an additional matching grant of about $150,000 from Cook County and over $300,000 more from local and national foundations.
How does the CBF decide which organizations receive grants with the Campaign funds?
The CBF has a comprehensive grant screening and evaluation process that carefully vets pro bono and legal aid organizations before they receive grant funding. The CBF grants process is carried out by a highly-regarded board of lawyers and judges who are broadly representative of Chicago’s legal community with the assistance of CBF staff with widely recognized expertise on these issues. The CBF grants process ensures accountability and strategically allocates the Campaign funds to maximize impact; leverage additional support from government and other sources; and promote best practices on common issues and collective challenges facing legal aid organizations.
The CBF looks at issues like the organization’s leadership; its management and governance practices; the strength of its attorney and non-attorney staff; its strategic plan; and how the organization fits into the broader pro bono and legal aid system. For special projects and initiatives, the CBF also looks at additional factors such as whether the organization is well suited to carry out the particular project and whether it is coordinating with other relevant stakeholders.
More information on the CBF’s grant process and recent grants can be found by visiting the Grants Section of the CBF website.
How broad is the impact of the Campaign grants?
The grants made possible by the Campaign provide funding for a comprehensive range of services to many thousands of people in need for a wide variety of legal issues.
Those receiving services as a result of Campaign grants include domestic violence victims; people at risk of wrongfully or unnecessarily losing their homes; immigrants fleeing persecution and abuse; and many other low-income and disadvantaged people in the Chicago area in critical need of legal assistance.
The Campaign grants fund a continuum of services to these people in need, ranging from web-based information and resources; legal aid hotlines, advice desks and clinics; extended representation; and significant advocacy and impact litigation.
Can I designate my Campaign contribution to support a particular organization?
We cannot designate your contribution to an individual program. However, all of the major pro bono and legal aid organizations providing legal services in the Chicago area will directly benefit from your contribution. The Campaign’s overarching goal is to move the entire pro bono and legal aid system forward by focusing on the common needs and collective challenges facing all of these organizations, and we can best achieve that goal by harnessing the combined force created by the legal community coming together around this issue.
While all of the pro bono and legal aid organizations serving our community benefit from the Campaign, it is critical for lawyers, law firms and corporations to continue to do pro bono work and provide financial support to the individual legal aid organizations they work with as partners. View the list of our Current Grantees to learn more about the many outstanding pro bono and legal aid organizations serving the Chicago area and how you can contribute to them directly. Find out how you can get involved in pro bono work.
Doesn’t the CBF support other organizations in addition to those supported by the Campaign?
In addition to the grants made possible by the Campaign, thanks to other generous support from the legal community and beyond, the CBF also supports a number of other special projects and initiatives, fellowships and scholarships, and other grants that advance the CBF’s mission. Examples include the Constitutional Rights Foundation of Chicago’s Edward J. Lewis II Lawyers in the Classroom Program; the Equal Justice Works Fellowship Program; and the Public Interest Law Initiative (PILI) Law Student Internship Program.
More information on the CBF’s other grants can be found by visiting the Grants Section of the CBF website.
Questions about Tax-Deductibility, Reporting and Acknowledgement
Is my contribution tax-deductible?
Yes, your contribution to the Campaign is a tax-deductible charitable contribution to the maximum extent permitted by law.
Does my contribution count as a qualifying contribution when I’m filling out my ARDC registration form?
Yes, you can include your Campaign contribution when you are filling out your annual ARDC registration form under Supreme Court Rule 756(f).
Will I receive a formal acknowledgement of my contribution?
Yes, every contribution to the Campaign makes a big difference and will be formally acknowledged by the CBF. If you make an online contribution you will receive an electronic acknowledgement right away. Because thousands of people make contributions to the Campaign in a span of just a few weeks and we don’t always receive notification of the contributions until weeks later, please note that there may be some delay before we are able to send you a formal acknowledgement via mail. We have a small staff at the CBF and logistically it takes a lot of time and effort to properly track and acknowledge all of the generous contributions we receive in the Campaign. We appreciate your patience, and please do not hesitate to contact us if for any reason you need your acknowledgement sooner.
Will anyone else be informed about my Campaign donation?