In the 70 years since its founding, the CBF has given out nearly $50 million in grants to support pro bono, legal aid and related initiatives, and more than $42 million since 1999.
Over that time, the CBF has honed its grantmaking focus around access to justice and expanded its grantmaking partnerships with other foundations, the courts, and government entities. More than 5,200 individual donors, more than 200 law firms, corporations and other law-related organizations, and the CBF’s many dedicated partners have enabled the CBF to increase our annual grants more than tenfold over the past 20 years. Today, the CBF awards over $2 million in grants, investing in the entire pro bono and legal aid system in our community.
When the CBF was formed in 1948, grantmaking was a smaller part of the organization’s work. In 1952, the CBF made its first grant of $100 to support the organization now known as the Legal Aid Society of Metropolitan Family Services, the oldest legal aid organization in Chicago and the only organized program at the time.
Over time, more pro bono and legal aid organizations came into existence, with the CBF often playing an integral role. For example, in the 1970s the CBF developed long-term grant partnerships with Chicago Volunteer Legal Services, Lawyers for the Creative Arts and several other pro bono and legal aid organizations. And in the 1980s, the CBF provided seed money to help launch several new pro bono and legal aid organizations that are still going strong today, including the Center for Disability & Elder Law, Chicago Legal Clinic, and the National Immigrant Justice Center.
Since those days, the CBF has continued to partner with and fund these organizations for the long haul. With the help of our dedicated supporters through the annual Investing in Justice Campaign, we have expanded our support to over 30 pro bono and legal aid organizations in Cook County and a number of innovative projects and initiatives that help make our justice system more fair and accessible for everyone. Each year, tens of thousands of people in need receive often critical legal help as a result of the CBF’s grants, including domestic violence survivors, veterans, seniors, children with disabilities, and many other people in need in the Chicago area.