Montana Justice Foundation

OVERVIEW: This funder makes grants to the Montana civic and legal aid community. It supports projects and programs throughout the state and accepts unsolicited applications for certain grant categories.

FUNDING AREAS: Civic and legal aid, law education, special projects, foreclosure prevention, community redevelopment

IP TAKE: This is a very focused funder, but a good one to know for Montana nonprofits engaged in policy and advocacy work. Direct services are a priority here.

PROFILE: The Montana Justice Foundation (MJT) is committed to achieving access to justice for all Montanans. It works with donors and community partners to award grants to the state’s civil and legal aid community. It's based in Helena and was created as a program of the Montana State Bar in 1979. The foundation’s first grant of $85,000 went to the Montana Legal Services Association, and the money came from voluntary IOLTA revenues.

In a recent year, MJF gave more than $340,000 to promote access to justice in Montana. To date, the foundation awarded over $5.9 million.

MJF makes three types of grants. Program grants go to legal aid organizations, special project grants, and law-related education grants. Awards also flow from a Bank of America grant program. The bulk of grants are program grants to organizations that provide direct legal services. Special project grants go to programs to increase pro bono services and similar efforts. Law education grants do not exceed $2,000 and go to mock trial events for high school students and similar topics. A while back, MJF received money from a settlement between Bank of America and the U.S. Department of Justice, through which MJF makes Bank of America grants to groups that provide legal services related to foreclosure prevention and community redevelopment.

Program grants are open to applications, with the application period typically running from early March to mid-April. Bank of America grants are also open to proposals. To pitch an idea for special project funding, contact the foundation directly to discuss. There are no hard deadlines for special project grants or law education grants, as applications may be submitted year-around after sending the staff an email to inquire about these opportunities. The grant application process is completely online.

Niki Zupanic is the foundation’s executive director and has been with the foundation since 2015. Crystine Mills is the program assistant and has worked for MJF part-time since 2016. The annual budget mostly consists of funds from the Montana IOLTA program, private donations, investment income, and Cy Pres funds.

General questions can be directed to the staff at 406-523-3920 or mjf@mtjustice.org. The mailing address is P.O. Box 1917, Helena, Montana 59624. The foundation also has a newsletter—sign up to follow grantmaking news and events.

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