van Loben Sels/RembeRock Foundation: Grants for Northern California

OVERVIEW: Located in San Francisco, the van Löben Sels/RembeRock Foundation promotes social justice in Northern California by means of legal services and advocacy. 

FUNDING AREAS: Legal Services and advocacy

IP TAKE: For organizations working within the narrow focus area of this foundation, van Löben Sels/RembeRock Foundation is accessible.

PROFILE: The van Loben Sels/RembeRock Foundation is a private foundation in San Francisco. Ernst van Löben Sels was born in Oakland in 1879 to parents of Dutch ancestry. He studied engineering at the University of California, Berkeley, and at Cornell University. Ernst married Sarah Eleanor Slate. The couple provided financial support to college students and entertained WWII soldiers. One of these soldiers was John M. Burnett, who later became Ernst's personal attorney laid the groundwork for the foundation. Today, the van Löben Sels/RembeRock Foundation's aims to "promote social justice in Northern California by means of legal services and advocacy."

The foundation awards grants almost exclusively to 501(c)(3) legal aid and public interest law organizations that provide direct legal services, legal assistance, and legal advocacy in Northern California. The exception to this is more rural areas where access to legal services is more limited.  In these areas, the foundation will consider funding programs that are legally related in a broader way. Overall, the foundation seeks organizations that offer direct legal service and have attorneys on staff to aid clients. Examples of legal aid might include helping an individual or family with immigration problems, landlord/tenant issues, family law/domestic violence, and other work. Past support has gone to Advokids' telephone hotline and comprehensive legal website, Legal Aid Society, and UnCommon Law.

Foundation grants often range from $7,000 to $30,000 each. Learn about past giving by reviewing the funder’s online grants list. The foundation is very focused on Northern California, defined by Santa Cruz, Santa Clara, Stanislaus, Tuolumne, and Mono Counties and all counties north of these five counties. National and statewide organizations can also receive funds, provided that the organization has an office or staff on the ground running a program in Northern California. 

The board meets four times a year to review grant requests, and application deadlines are in each season. Use the online grants manager system to apply for a grant. Direct general questions to the foundation staff at 415-512-0500 or to Jenny Chan, program associate, at


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