Boston Bar Foundation

OVERVIEW: This funder is the charitable arm of the Boston Bar Association and awards grants to nonprofit organizations that provide legal serves to vulnerable people in Greater Boston.

FUNDING AREAS: Justice, legal services, community, diversity, inclusion

IP TAKE: This funder focuses on legal aid grants in Boston but has other interests too. Low-income and vulnerable Boston residents come into focus for BBF on issues of homelessness, domestic violence, and immigration.

PROFILE: The Boston Bar Foundation is the charitable affiliate of the Boston Bar Association, and its mission is “to promote justice by funding and promoting innovation in legal services, enhancing access to justice for the underserved and supporting the public interest activities of the bar.” The Association traces its beginnings to John Adams, who provided pro bono representation to British soldiers prosecuted for the Boston Massacre.

It annually funds organizations that provide legal services and opportunities for justice to the people who need it most. BBF also supports the pro bono and public service projects of the bar and lawyer projects that help strengthen neighborhoods and improve lives. And the sole geographic focus of this funder is Boston.

It’s easy to pigeonhole BBF as a legal services funder. But BBF has also funded the following types of programs:

  • Children's access to equal education and life opportunities
  • Counseling and advice to homeless and at-risk veterans
  • Families facing eviction to inform of legal rights and fight displacement.
  • Summer jobs for Boston teens
  • Financial literacy for high school students

Through its Expanding Access to Justice grantmaking program, BBF supports legal services programs in areas like immigration, domestic violence, and homelessness. It also pursues this goal with its Lawyer for a Day in the Boston Housing Court program, which has given relief to people facing the threat of homelessness in Boston.

In a recent grant cycle, BBF awarded $1 million in grants across approximately 21 community organizations. Each of these groups is providing legal services to people in need. A majority of this funding came from BBF’s annual John & Abigail Adams Benefit and BBF reserves. The rest came from Interest on Lawyer Trust Account (IOLTA) funds. Past grantees include Casa Myrna Vazquez, Greater Boston Legal Services, Housing Families, and the Irish International Immigrant Center.

A grants committee reviews applications in an annual grant cycle each year. The big focus here is on current needs and emerging issues facing low-income individuals in Greater Boston.

General questions about BBF funding can be directed to 617-742-0615 or via email at bbf@bostonbar.org. The foundation has a staff of around 10 professionals and a board of trustees with three officers. You can learn more about BBF by browsing through its community projects and events

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