Your generous support makes it possible for the CBF grants program to invest in the entire pro bono and legal aid system and make an impact that none of us could on our own. CBF grants total over $2 million each year, supporting dozens of pro bono and legal aid organizations serving the Chicago area and a number of innovative projects that are making a longer term impact. Each day, thousands of people in need receive help as a result of the CBF’s grants, including domestic violence survivors, people at risk of losing their homes, seniors who are the victim of consumer fraud, and many other low-income and disadvantaged people in the Chicago area.

In the 70 years since its founding, the CBF has awarded over $50 million in grants to support pro bono, legal aid and related initiatives, and more than $45 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. Learn more about the history of the CBF’s grants.

Today, CBF grants:

  • support dozens of outstanding pro bono and legal aid organizations serving our community
  • help dedicated attorneys pursue legal aid careers
  • make it possible for pro bono attorneys to most effectively make a difference
  • underwrite court-based help desks and pro bono projects that make the justice system more user-friendly and accessible for people in need

The civil legal needs of low-income people run the gamut, from very simple questions that can be answered online or by court help desks, to complex problems that require hours of specialized representation. This calls for an integrated legal aid system providing a range of services. The CBF supports a continuum of legal services to help people in need, ranging from web-based resources to legal aid hotlines and advice desks, to full representation and larger impact litigation and advocacy.

The demand for legal aid services in our community is great. There are now about 1.2 million low-income Cook County residents—about 1 in 4 in the Chicago area—who are eligible for legal aid. Fewer than half of the people in need of legal help will be able to get it due to a shortage of pro bono and legal aid resources.

The annual CBF Investing in Justice Campaign continues to be the primary engine for the CBF’s grants. This year’s Campaign set new records across the board, yielding more than $2.3 million in grants to more than 30 pro bono and legal aid organizations thanks to more than 5,000 individual donors, a number of generous matching contributions from participating firms and companies, and additional funds the CBF is able to leverage through the Campaign grants process from a number of dedicated foundations and government entities.

For more information about CBF grants, contact Melanie MacBride at 312.554.1206 or