Community Grants

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.

Information on Current and Past PILF Grantees.

2014-2015 Community Grant Information

The 2015-2016 grant application process is now open. Application instructions may be found here.


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!

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.

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.

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.

More Questions?

Email Brian Yin.