Grant Application Process | Legal Services

Grant Guidelines


Grantee Eligibility:

All potential grantees must be a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization or a public entity. BFF will not support organizations that discriminate against a person or group on the basis of age, political affiliation, race, national origin, ethnicity, gender, disability, sexual orientation or religious belief.

What We Don't Fund:

BFF does not fund individuals, direct scholarships or capital campaigns. Indirect Costs for Program Grants: It is the policy of the Foundation to provide a maximum indirect cost recovery of 25 percent of project costs on all project grants. This indirect cost policy applies only to project grants to nonprofit organizations with organizational budgets in excess of $5M. Organizations with budgets less than $5M will be handeled on a case-by-case basis.

Geographical Limitations:

We primarily fund in the San Francisco Bay Area. National and California serving organizations may apply for grants for the following types of programs:

  • Fellows programs,
  • programs to support increased Access to Justice funding
  • leadership development programs.
Exceptions can be made for organization operating within, or serving, 'legal deserts'.

Grant Amounts:

Most of our legal services grants are in the $10,000-30,000 range. A small number of grants exceed this amount.


BFF has two grant cycles per year, one in the spring and one in the fall. Important deadlines are as follows: Spring 2021: LOI submission window: January 2, 2021 - February 8, 2021 Application window opens: February 15, 2021 All materials must be received by March 22, 2021 Decision Notification: June 2021 Fall 2021: LOI submission window: June 1, 2021 - July 15, 2020 Application window opens: July 15, 2020 All materials must be received by September 15, 2020

Decision notification: November 2020

Grant Eligibilty By Budget Size:

Organizations with Operating Budget Under $1M:

Organizations with operating budgets less than $1M are welcome to request general operating support and are not eligible to receive program/project support.

Organizations with Operating Budgets Over $5M:

Organizations with operating budgets over $5M are welcome to request support for new/pilot programs or projects. These organizations are not eligible to receive funding for existing programs/projects or general operating support.

Legal Service Programs Within Organizations With $5M+ Operating Budgets:

As an exception to the above, legal service programs embedded within organizations with $5M+ budgets, are eligible to request general operating support for the legal services program.

Organizations with Operating Budgets Between $1M-$5M:

Organizations with operating budgets over $1M or less than $5M are welcome to request programmatic or general operating support. There are no eligibilty restriction, based on budget size, for these organizations.

Grant Types: Legal Services

General Operating Grants are made only to organizations based in the San Francisco Bay Area. 


Grants for general operations are generally made to organizations who provide unique services within their communities.  This includes funding to legal service providers who are based in “legal deserts”.

Our I & R Grants target projects and programs that are both innovative and replicable.  We support these grants to allow legal services leaders to test new models that have the potential to help their individual organizations and when replicated, to help their peer organizations. 


This includes, but is not limited to, new strategy-focused projects designed to enhance the effectiveness of an organization to answer questions posed by either the organization or by the legal services sector.

I & R Grants

"Hubs": Organizations that do not generally provide direct legal services programs, but provide technical assistance and substantive back-up to the direct services programs. They provide support service to legal services offices in the following areas: training, technical assistance, research and advocacy. Examples include: 

  • Support Centers

  • Think Tanks

  • Design Labs 

  • Impact Litigation

Recruitment & Retention Grants: In an effort to support the legal services sector and ensure a strong and consistent pipeline of new legal services staff, we support grants that focus on recruitment & retention of legal services professionals.  Examples of such grants include:

  • Public Services Loan Forgiveness Programs

  • Loan Assistance Repayment Programs

  • Fellowships

  • Staff Well-Being

Advocacy Grants: We fund advocacy work that supports to the legal service sector.  However, do not fund lobbying efforts on new laws, legislation or for candidates.

Sector Supporting Grants
'Hubs', Recruitment & Retention and Advocacy

OD Access grants seek to strengthen an organization's ability to efficiently deliver services to clients.  Ranging from $1,000-$3,500, these grants facilitate access to existing tools that might otherwise might be out the organization's financial reach, that have a direct benefit to the organization or the clients they serve.  


In an effort to be responsive to the needs of our grantees, OD Access Grants are reviewed within 30 days of the date the application is submitted.

To learn more about these grants and apply, please visit the Access Grant area of our site. 

Organizational Development
Access Grants

Letter of Inquiry for Legal Services


Once you've reviewed the type of grants we provide and their guidelines, we invite you to submit a Letter of Inquiry. We accept LOI's for our legal services grants on the following schedule:​​

  • January 2, 2021 - February 8, 2021 for consideration in the foundation's 2021 Spring Grant Cycle

  • June 1, 2021 - July 15, 2021 for consideration in the foundation's 2021 Fall Grant Cycle


LOIs will be reviewed at the conclusion of each open submission period. Once reviewed, feedback will be provided and invitations to submit complete grant applications will be sent, if applicable. 

Grant Application for Legal Services


An invitation is required to submit a grant application.  If you are not a current BFF grantee, we require you submit a LOI during timeframes detailed above.  We accept grant applications (from invited organizations) for legal services grants on the following schedule:​​

  • February 15, 2021 - March 22, 2021 for consideration in the foundation's 2021 Spring Grant Cycle

  • July 15, 2021 - September 15, 2021 for consideration in the foundation's 2021 Fall Grant Cycle


Grant applications will be reviewed at the conclusion of each open submission period. Once reviewed, we will email the contact person identified in the application regarding next steps.  Grant applications will be submitted through our online grantee portal.

Reporting on Your Grant

If approved for funding, within 6-8 months of the grant's distribution, you will be required to submit a report on the status of the funded project or the impact general operating support has had on your organization's work.