Each year PILF awards three to five grants to not-for-profit organizations that provide legal services to communities in need. Grant amounts range from $1,000 to $15,000, depending on the availability of funds and the nature of the proposed project. Since its inception in 1980, PILF has provided over $1 million to public interest legal organizations across the country. We are particularly interested in funding innovative projects that would not be undertaken without a grant and in helping established projects that suffer from a funding shortage.
2017-2018 Community Grant Information
The announcement of the 2017-2018 grant cycle may be found here
Application instructions may be found here
Questions about Eligibility
Do I have to be a lawyer to apply?
Absolutely not. PILF tries to fund projects that will benefit the public interest through the mechanism of law, but this doesn't mean that we only fund direct legal services performed by people with a JD. We commonly give grants to projects that aren't performing actual legal work for which you need a license. For example, recently we funded a project designed to inform migrant sheepherders of their employment rights, and another that sought to outline alternative remedies for minors convicted of prostitution-related offenses. So long as your project serves the public interest and is sufficiently related to some aspect of the law we'll consider it equally, regardless of whether you have a law degree.
Do I need to be in or around New York City to apply?
No. We have considered applicant organizations from Seattle to San Antonio to Maine, and everywhere in between. We've found that some of the most interesting and innovative projects ideas have come from rural areas with very specialized needs, and we encourage everybody with a good project to apply!
Our organization is based in/focuses primarily on projects outside of the United States. Are we eligible?
Yes! Indeed, last year, one of the projects we funded focused exclusively on South Africa.
I applied in the past and was not selected. Is it worth applying again?
Yes! Each year we have a number of really great applicants, and there are many projects we would fund if we had the resources to do so. The Foundation strives to maintain a balance of projects they fund, and in the past we have funded projects that had not been selected for funding earlier. So definitely apply again!
I have received funding from PILF in the past. Can I apply again?
Yes! As long as your project still fits all of the requirements outlined in the application, you are certainly welcome to submit your project for consideration for additional funding. Note, however, that our having selected your project for funding in the past does not guarantee that you will receive funding again in the future.
My organization has received funding from PILF in the past. Can I apply again?
Yes! Receiving funding from PILF in the past does not disqualify other projects from consideration.
Is there anything in particular you look for in a project?
The Foundation looks to fund a broad range of issues and projects. We do give a slight preference for projects that involve Columbia law students or alumni or that have the potential to include such involvement in the future. However, this is certainly not a prerequisite, and indeed a significant portion of our funding goes to organizations that do not fit this criteria.
Can I submit more than one application?
Of course! We look forward to reading them.
Questions about the grant process
Who makes the ultimate funding decisions?
The application evaluation process proceeds in two stages and is at all times handled by interested Columbia Law School students and faculty. In the first stage, copies of each grant application are read by several student volunteers and then rated according to our criteria. Based on these ratings and a meeting of all interested readers, 8-12 finalist applications are chosen. Once the finalists have been chosen, stage two of the selection process begins. At this point, those students and faculty who volunteer for the finalist grant reading committee read and rate each application before convening at a final meeting, at which point the final funding decisions are made.
When will I hear from PILF regarding my application?
PILF will send an email to all applicants to let them know that their application has been received; however, this email will not provide information regarding whether or not all the required materials have been sent. Applicants will then be notified in April as to whether or not they have been selected. Selected applicants will at that time also be told how much they have been awarded.PILF will send an email to all applicants to let them know that their application has been received; however, this email will not provide information regarding whether or not all the required materials have been sent. Applicants will then be notified in April as to whether or not they have been selected. Selected applicants will at that time also be told how much they have been awarded.
Do I have any recourse if my project doesn't get funded, or is funded in an amount less than I requested?
PILF does not reconsider funding decisions at the request of applicants once they have been voted on by the finalist reader committee and endorsed by the Board of Directors. We do, however, encourage applicants to re-apply the next year if they are not funded. The committee often agonizes over which projects to fund, and an application that is denied one year may be funded in another based on the strength of the applicant pool.
I applied but was not selected in a previous year. Is there any way I can receive feedback on my application?
Unfortunately, due to the large number of applications we cannot provide individual feedback. We receive many outstanding applications, and wish we could fund them all, but can only select a few each year. We encourage you to resubmit your proposal, as each your our priorities may be different.
Do you allow overhead or indirect costs to be included in the application?
Yes, we allow overhead and indirect costs to be included in the application. These costs are considered part of the grant amount requested. There is no set maximum, though the committee may take the rate or amounts into account when making its decision.
Email Rachael Siegel.