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Legal Aid Infrastructure & Innovation Grants

9/30/21 UPDATE:
The webinar recording is available here. Passcode: XMHCN*8x

A PDF of the Letter of Intent (LOI) is available for preview purposes only. Please do not submit the LOI in paper form, as it will not be accepted. We anticipate the LOI will be available for online submission through SmartSimple no later than October 20, with a submission deadline of November 2.


BACKGROUND

In order to improve equal access and the fair administration of justice, the State has appropriated $5,000,000 through the Judicial Council for the California Access to Justice Commission (CalATJ) to provide grants to nonprofit organizations that provide civil legal services to indigent persons to be used to support the infrastructure and innovation needs of legal services in civil matters for indigent persons.

Please email Grants@CalATJ.org if you would like to be put on a mailing list for further information about this grant opportunity, including notice of an upcoming webinar to respond to questions. Letters of Intent are due October 29. Based on Letters of Intent, organizations will be invited to submit a grant application, which will be due January 14.  

Materials

ELIGIBILITY

Applicants must meet the following criteria in order to be eligible to apply:

  • Funds are available to 501(c)(3) nonprofits that provide civil legal aid, including (but not limited to) qualified legal services projects and support centers as defined in Sections 6213 to 6215, inclusive, of the Business and Professions Code.
  • Applicants must provide civil legal services to indigent persons living at or below 200% FPT; “Indigent” is as defined in Section 6213(d) of the Business and Professions Code.
  • Special focus shall be given to:
    • projects that provide services to rural or underserved immigrant communities, regardless of citizenship status;
    • projects that involve meaningful partnership with community-based nonprofits

AWARD INFORMATION*

  • Total Funding: $4,950,000
  • Expected Number of Grants: 20-30[1]
  • Grants Size: $25,000 – $250,000 per project[2]
  • Anticipated Median Range: $75,000 – $125,000
  • Grant Period: The grant period is 12 months, beginning March 1

PROJECT REQUIREMENTS

Project funds must be used to support the (1) infrastructure and/or (2) innovation needs of legal services in civil matters for indigent persons as defined by individuals living at or below 200% FPT. Innovation and Infrastructure project examples will be shared on the CalATJ website; please check www.calatj.org for updates. Infrastructure and innovation examples are available to provide applicants with ideas, but do not represent an exhaustive list of what is allowable.

Infrastructure: Similar to capacity building, infrastructure refers to foundational elements that help a nonprofit reach new levels of operational, programmatic, financial, or organizational maturity, so it may more effectively and efficiently advance its mission into the future. Infrastructure projects may include planning, governance, staffing, evaluation, financial management, legal accountability, communications, administrative functions, and technology.    Infrastructure can also include leveraging relationships to access resources, exchange ideas, address shared issues, and collectively problem-solve in an effort to build capacity, both for a nonprofit and for the broader network, with the common goal of addressing pressing social concerns.[3]

Innovation: Innovation is not necessarily a new project. It could be an expansion project, or improvements to a unique service delivery model. Innovations in legal aid change the affordability, accessibility, or effectiveness of practices or tools used to provide high-quality legal assistance to low-income persons. This can include approaches for using technology or partnerships in legal services delivery; enhancing the effectiveness and efficiency of existing technologies or partnerships so that they may be better used to increase the quality and quantity of services to clients; or replicating, adapting, or providing added value to the work of prior technology projects or partnerships. Innovation efforts can be applied to programs, products or devices, partnerships, communications, or operating processes. Innovation results in improvements to service delivery, quality of legal work, and managerial practices. Innovations often incorporate technology, but can also be reflected in partnerships, service delivery models, or frameworks.[4]

APPLICATION TIMELINE

September 13Announcement emailed to lists and information posted on website
October 18 Informational webinar
November 2Letter of Intent due
November 3 – November 30Review of LOI and recommend final candidates to complete application
December 1Applicants notified of selection and applications released
January 14Applications due
January 17 – February 18Selection Committee reviews applications and meets to select grantees and make recommendations to executive committee; staff conduct follow up with grantees as appropriate for additional documentation
February 21 – February 28Grant decisions announced February 21 and final paperwork processed and managed by February 28
March 1Grant period begins

SUB-GRANTS

Subgrants to legal aid organizations or community partners are encouraged. Applicants that are applying for a grant and are also a subgrantee of another application must demonstrate that the separate grants will not fund the same activities.

EVALUATION

Grantees will be required to complete a preliminary 3-month progress report and annual evaluative report, quarterly fiscal reports, and may be required to participate in site visits. Additional information may be requested based on individual circumstances. These reports will help with advocacy efforts for continued funding.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

  • Q: Can applicants request more than $250,000?
    • A: The Commission may consider grants in excess of this amount if they incorporate exceptional innovation or partnerships, or infrastructure projects that serve the legal aid network broadly.
  • Q: Will applicants be able to apply for these funds again next year?
    • A: Contingent upon continued funding, organizations will have the opportunity to re-apply for continuation funding in the subsequent year.
  • Q: What happens if a grantee doesn’t spend funds down within the 12-month grant period?
    • A: Carryover of funds may be requested in extenuating circumstances; carryover must be expended before 6/30/2023.
  • Q: Are non-profit organizations that are not legal services organizations eligible to apply?
    • A: If you have a dedicated legal services program that provides civil legal aid to indigent persons, and can demonstrate funds would support that work, yes.
  • Q: Can law school legal clinics apply?
    • A: Provided the law school is a nonprofit, has a dedicated legal services program that provides civil legal aid to indigent persons, and can demonstrate funds would support that work, yes.

[1] A portion of dedicated funds will be set aside to ensure smaller programs have access to the funding opportunity.

[2] Grant awards will generally range between $25,000 – $250,000, however the Commission may consider grants in excess of this amount if they incorporate exceptional innovation or partnerships, or infrastructure projects that serve the legal aid network broadly.

[3] Adapted from the National Council of Nonprofits.

[4] Adapted from PATH per Boston Consulting Group and Legal Services Corporation Technology Initiative Grant Program.