Availability of Funds
Timeline for Application & Review
Grant Disbursement
General Evaluation Criteria
Application and Reporting Requirements
For More Information



The Illinois Equal Justice Foundation (IEJF) is a not-for-profit corporation established in 1999, pursuant to the Illinois Equal Justice Act (30 ILCS 765/1 et. seq.).  The IEJF supports initiatives to increase Illinois residents’ access to the legal system.  The IEJF provides grants to nonprofit legal aid providers through a state appropriation housed in the Illinois Attorney General’s Office.

Availability of Funds

The FY 18 grant budget is $2,470,000.  The grant budget is funded by both the state appropriation for civil legal aid and a portion of the AG Consumer Settlement funds awarded to the IEJF in FY 16. 

Attorney General Madigan approved the IEJF’s request to spend the last year of the Consumer Settlement Funds over fiscal year 18 and 19.  The IEJF requested this accommodation in order to stabilize legal aid funding over a longer period of time.  

The IEJF is utilizing the same guidelines and applications for both state appropriation-funded and the consumer settlement fund grants.


The Illinois Equal Justice Foundation makes grants in five categories:

An organization may apply for funds in more than one category.  Organizations seeking support for more than one of the five purposes must submit a separate application for each category.

At its discretion, the Board may also request proposals from non-profit organizations to conduct research, training and technical assistance regarding legal information for the public, mediation, telephone advice and referral services and/or civil legal assistance.


Organizations are eligible to apply for a grant from the Illinois Equal Justice Foundation if they:

  • Are tax-exempt under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code;
  • Provide services to Illinois residents in one or more of the five areas set forth in the “Purposes” section.  To determine if a particular project qualifies for a grant, see the specific guidelines for each of the five categories noted above.
  • Provide services to low-income people free of charge or on a sliding scale based on income. Low-income is defined as a household income of up to 150% of the federal poverty guidelines.  Applicants who charge fees for their legal services are required to provide the IEJF with a copy of their fee schedule.  Legal information for the public, self-help legal assistance and mediation  services, however, must be provided free of charge.


  • Funds appropriated by the Illinois General Assembly, including funds distributed by the IEJF, may not be spent on a sectarian purpose.
  • Said funds may not be used for the purpose of lobbying; encouraging political activities, labor or anti-labor activities, boycotts, picketing, strikes or demonstrations; or investigative or legal compliance activities related to a pending dispute.
  • A recipient may not use funds received under the Illinois Equal Justice Act to file an individual action or class action under the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act or other labor laws.
  • No more than 10% of grants awarded by the IEJF can be used for overhead costs.  Failure to abide by this may jeopardize future funding from the IEJF.

Timeline for Application & Review

The grant period will be September 1, 2017 – August 31, 2018, and the application and review process will follow this schedule:

June 30, 2017 Applications are available at There is a separate application for each funding category.
August 31, 2017 Completed Applications Submitted on Online Portal
September – October 2017 Grant review & site visits
December 2017 Board decisions announced

Grant Disbursement

Grant payments will be disbursed in December, April and June. If state funding is made available in FY 18, this may alter the payment schedule as payments from that funding pool will be dependent on receipt of the funds from the state.

General Evaluation Criteria

(see funding category for more specific criteria)

  • Demonstrated need for the proposed services.
  • Applicant’s experience in providing said service, as indicated by the experience levels and qualifications of key staff and the numbers of persons served in prior years.
  • Efficient service delivery which takes into consideration factors such as the relative costs of the applicant’s services; cooperation and coordination with other entities to avoid duplication of effort; the use of volunteers; and the use of technology to increase access to services and to maximize productivity.
  • Sound organizational management, including indices such as the fiscal health of the sponsoring organization; realistic income and expense budgets for the project; evidence of active involvement and oversight by a qualified advisory board and/or board of directors; and demonstrated technical efficiency and protection of client data.
  • Use of evaluative and measurement techniques that measure success, effectiveness, and efficiency as it relates to organizational mission and that are used for learning and improvement.
  • Use of goals and S.M.A.R.T. objectives.  IEJF requires applicants to provide overarching goals that are supported by objectives that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound.  Goals and objectives should be proposed with the initial application, and will be reported on in the mid-term and final reports.  Existing metrics and evaluation systems should at a minimum incorporate the concept of S.M.A.R.T. objectives.  Examples include:
    • Goal:  Decrease the number of seniors suffering from abusive debt collection practices in service area.
      • Objective:  During the grant period, file 20 Fair Debt Collection Practice Act claims on behalf of seniors in service area.
      • Objective:  During the first six months of the grant period, secure debt modifications or eliminations for 35 seniors.
    • Goal:  Increase the knowledge and understanding of homeless youth about their educational rights.
      • Objective:  Mobilize volunteer attorneys to create know-your-rights materials on public school regulations, producing a comprehensive pamphlet within six months.
      • Objective:  Distribute 125 copies of the know-your-rights materials to homeless youth and their families in the service area from June to August.
    • Goal:  Decrease the burden on families and courts during the divorce process in service area.
      • Objective:  Train 10 new family law mediators in three cities in the county over the course of the grant period.
      • Objective:  Provide mediation to completion for 70 clients across the county over the course of the grant period.
    • Goal:  Increase access to justice for self-represented litigants at the local courthouse.
      • Objective:  Recruit 40 new volunteers to staff the organization’s self-help desks by conducting two outreach events and training sessions in September at the local law school.
      • Objective:  Over the next six months, pilot new self-help center software by providing services to 1,500 clients.
  • Performance under previous Illinois Equal Justice Foundation grants. For organizations that received grants in fiscal year 2016 and are seeking a renewal, information on how the grant is being used, what services are being provided and if/how the funds increased the capacity of the organization.

Grant requests will be evaluated on the factors listed above, the criteria listed under each funding category as well as those outlined in the Illinois Equal Justice Act.

The IEJF is committed to equitable salaries for legal aid providers and encourages applicants to develop a reasonable pay scale, training and support program for its personnel to ensure that client services are not interrupted by unplanned staff turnover.

The IEJF subscribes to Illinois Nonprofit Principles and Best Practices and encourages applicants to strive to adopt the Best Practices pertinent to their organization. The Best Practices were developed by the Donors Forum of Illinois, endorsed by the Illinois Attorney General and available at

Application and Reporting Requirements

Applications must be submitted electronically by August 31, 2017.

  • Applications will be accepted via an online portal that is currently in development.  The IEJF will notify potential applicants when the portal is ready.  The goal is to give applicants sufficient time to learn the new system.
  • The IEJF may have an additional grant cycle is the state appropriation is not awarded on the timetable outlined above.

Grant reports must be submitted via the online portal as well.

  • All grantees must submit a brief mid-term report on their activities on or by April 16, 2018.   Grantees must state whether or not they can spend the grant funds in the time and manner allocated in this report.
  • All funds must be expended by August 31, 2018. The IEJF reserves the right to re-grant funds if deemed necessary.
  • A detailed final report will be due on or by September 30, 2018.
  • Failure to submit reports in a timely manner may jeopardize future IEJF funding.

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For More Information

For more information about the Illinois Equal Justice Foundation’s grant guidelines and procedures, contact Zach Zarnow, Program Director, at 312-938-2106. You can also contact Mr. Zarnow via e-mail at

To learn more about the Illinois Equal Justice Foundation, click here.

Approved by the Board of Directors, June 20, 2017.

Amended August 18, 2017.