The Chicago Bar Foundation

Building a Fairer and Better Justice System, Together

aka CBF   |   Chicago, IL   |  chicagobarfoundation.org

Mission

The Chicago Bar Foundation brings the legal community together to improve access to justice for people in need and make the legal system more fair and efficient for everyone. Through grants, advocacy, pro bono, and partnerships, the CBF accomplishes this by: • Increasing access to free and affordable legal assistance for people in need • Making the courts and legal system more user-friendly, fair and accessible for people without lawyers As the charitable arm of the Chicago Bar Association, the CBF is the largest voluntarily supported bar foundation in the country. The generous contributions of thousands of dedicated individuals, more than 200 law firms and corporations, and many other committed partners make the CBF’s work possible.

Notes from the nonprofit

The CBF regularly publishes its latest audit and 990 on its website, https://chicagobarfoundation.org/about/finances/ and will soon be posting its 2021 versions once they are final.

Ruling year info

1949

Principal Officer

Mr. Bob Glaves

Associate Director for Grants & COO

Melanie MacBride

Main address

321 S Plymouth Court Suite 3B

Chicago, IL 60604 USA

Show more contact info

EIN

36-6109584

NTEE code info

Public Foundations (T30)

Legal Services (I80)

IRS filing requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ.

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Communication

Programs and results

What we aim to solve

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

The CBF brings the legal community together to work to ensure the justice system is fair and accessible for all people, no matter their income or circumstances.

Our programs

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

The CBF Grants Program

The CBF's grants program provides critical and consistent general operating support for dozens of outstanding pro bono and legal aid organizations serving the Chicago area and supports a number of innovative special projects, fellowships and scholarships, and systemic initiatives.

Population(s) Served
Adults

Where we work

Goals & Strategy

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn about the organization's key goals, strategies, capabilities, and progress.

Charting impact

Four powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

The Chicago Bar Foundation brings the legal community together through advocacy, funding, and innovation to improve access to justice for people in need and to make the legal system more fair, equitable, and effective.

The CBF accomplishes this by:
• Increasing access to free and affordable legal assistance for people in need
• Making the courts and legal system more user-friendly, fair and accessible, particularly for people without lawyers

Using a mix of grants, advocacy, pro bono and partnerships, the CBF pursues a two-pronged strategy:
1) Investing proven solutions that have an immediate effect – such as grants to established pro bono and legal aid organizations through the CBF Investing in Justice Campaign.
2) Developing innovative new solutions and advocating for legal reforms that address gaps and emerging issues or drive long-term, systemic improvements, through initiatives such as: the CBF Justice Entrepreneurs Project; the Cook County Legal Aid for Housing and Debt program (https://www.cookcountylegalaid.org/), and the Illinois Armed Forces Legal Aid Network.

As the charitable arm of The Chicago Bar Association, the CBF's work is made possible by the generous contributions of thousands of dedicated individuals, more than 200 law firms and corporations, and many other committed partners. Thanks to that strong support, the CBF awards millions in grants each year and continues to play a lead role in a number of innovative access to justice initiatives. More information on the CBF's work is available on our website, chicagobarfoundation.org.

The CBF takes an integrated, system-wide approach to improving access to justice that starts with mobilizing the legal community's involvement in this cause and then using a strategic mix of grants, advocacy, innovation, pro bono and partnerships to carry out our other primary goals. While each of these strategies is a distinct area of our work, we use these strategies in concert to maximize impact. As an example, one of the major issues the CBF has addressed in recent years was the growing number of people facing eviction, foreclosure, or consumer debt issues in the wake of the pandemic. The CBF worked closely with the courts and other partners to develop an innovative new program, Cook County Legal Aid for Housing and Debt (https://www.cookcountylegalaid.org/), a comprehensive mediation/assistance program that gives people facing these issues in the Chicago area access to free legal aid, case management, mediation, and housing assistance. Through a mix of grants, advocacy, pro bono and partnerships, the CBF has played an integral role in launching, sustaining and continually improving this and other court-based programs to each year help tens of thousands of people in the Chicago area reach the best outcome for their particular cases. This is just one of many examples of the CBF's ability to integrate our various strategies to efficiently maximize impact and help leverage many other important resources.

The CBF's core strategies include: mobilizing Chicago's legal community to fulfill its leadership role in this cause by giving their time and money and using their influence to advance access to justice; providing grants that fund a continuum of legal services to help people in need, and each year enable tens of thousands of low-income and disadvantaged Chicagoans to get critical legal advice and assistance, strengthen our community's pro bono and legal aid system, and generate other longer-term systemic improvements in access to justice; court-based advocacy to make the court system more user-friendly and accessible to all people, particularly for the growing number of people who come to court without lawyers; legislative/policy advocacy to advance government funding for legal aid and promote policies that support and advance equal access to justice; and community leadership, using uses the CBF's unique place in the community to play an important leadership role in coordinating pro bono, legal aid and related access to justice efforts, identifying and responding to emerging issues impacting access to justice, and developing innovative solutions to systemic challenges.

The CBF has a consistent track record of proven impact, a solid infrastructure, and a sound strategic plan to build on to make an even greater impact in the future. To advance our system-wide approach to improving access to justice, the CBF draws on a number of strengths, including a strong and experienced Board of Directors, a highly capable staff and a robust and diverse network of strategic partnerships with the bar, the courts, pro bono and legal aid organizations, law firms, corporations, government, law schools and the philanthropic community. While everyone in the legal community—lawyers and legal professionals, judges, law firms, corporations and other organizations—has the ability to make a real difference in this cause as individuals, the CBF is the one place that Chicago's legal community can come together around this cause to collectively make a powerful impact that no one person or organization could make acting alone. The CBF's position at the intersection of the key institutional stakeholders in our justice system, along with the ""bully pulpit"" of our Chicago Bar Association charter, gives us a unique platform from which to effectively tackle this cause on a systemic level. A dedicated and highly-regarded board of lawyers and judges who are broadly representative of Chicago's legal community, with the assistance of a CBF staff with widely recognized experience and expertise on these issues, and an active Young Professionals Board, oversees and carries out the work of the CBF and ensures accountability. More detailed information is available on the CBF website: chicagobarfoundation.org. The CBF has a large, diverse and growing base of support that makes our work possible, including thousands of lawyers and other legal professionals, more than 200 law firms and corporations, and many other dedicated partners. With the breadth of support, expertise and resources the CBF is able to leverage through its vast network, the CBF is able to consistently make a significant impact in our mission, both in many short term successes and in the longer-term systemic improvements our work is making possible. Our partnerships with the courts, The Chicago Bar Association, other foundations and funders, and the larger legal community, along with a group of outstanding pro bono and legal aid organizations that are our grantees, are major strengths that have been a huge asset in our past success and will allow us to strengthen our work going forward.

With the leadership and generous contributions of legions of dedicated supporters and a number of committed partners, the CBF's comprehensive efforts enable many thousands of people in need to get critical legal help each year. It is the CBF's longer-term impact, however, that is our defining niche. Highlights of the CBF's longer-term impact include 1. Chicago's legal community is significantly more engaged and more comprehensively involved in this cause. 2. Chicago's pro bono and legal aid organizations have greater and more diverse sources of funding through the legal community and other key sources (government and other foundations), a better coordinated delivery system, and more resources available to support and advance their work. 3. Thousands of middle-income people each year have better access to necessary legal help through the CBF's Justice Entrepreneurs Project and related initiatives. 4. Dedicated lawyers are better able to pursue and remain in careers in legal aid in the Chicago area because of improved legal aid salaries, significant new loan repayment assistance programs and scholarships, and expanded training and professional development opportunities. 5. Pro bono programs offer significantly more and varied pro bono opportunities, and much better resources are available to engage lawyers, other professionals and law students to help expand legal services to those in need. 6. Our community's court system is much more accessible for people without lawyers because of a growing network of legal advice desks in the federal and state courts, a growing array of user-friendly online legal resources that are increasingly available on www.IllinoisLegalAid.org and court websites, and related court-based projects. Even with these significant advances there is still a long way to go to achieve our vision of equal access to justice for all people in our community. As a result, even with all of the impact we have made in recent years, our profession's leadership role in access to justice efforts--and the CBF's role in mobilizing our legal community around this cause--is more important than ever.

Financials

The Chicago Bar Foundation
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Operations

The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.

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Connect with nonprofit leaders

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  • Analyze a variety of pre-calculated financial metrics
  • Access beautifully interactive analysis and comparison tools
  • Compare nonprofit financials to similar organizations

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The Chicago Bar Foundation

Board of directors
as of 11/24/2021
SOURCE: Self-reported by organization
Board chair

Cynthia Abbott

Chicago Public Media

Term: 2021 - 2022

Carrie Di Santo

CME Group

Terry Dee

McDermott Will & Emery

Hon. Mary Anne Mason

Illinois Appellate Court

Steve Weiss

Honigman

Steve Fus

United Airlines, Inc.

Veronica Gomez

Commonwealth Edison Company

Board leadership practices

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

GuideStar worked with BoardSource, the national leader in nonprofit board leadership and governance, to create this section.

  • Board orientation and education
    Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations? Yes
  • CEO oversight
    Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year ? No
  • Ethics and transparency
    Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year? Yes
  • Board composition
    Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership? Yes
  • Board performance
    Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years? No

Organizational demographics

SOURCE: Self-reported; last updated 11/24/2021

Who works and leads organizations that serve our diverse communities? GuideStar partnered on this section with CHANGE Philanthropy and Equity in the Center.

Leadership

The organization's leader identifies as:

Race & ethnicity
White/Caucasian/European
Gender identity
Male, Not transgender (cisgender)
Sexual orientation
Heterosexual or Straight
Disability status
Person without a disability

The organization's co-leader identifies as:

Race & ethnicity
White/Caucasian/European
Gender identity
Female, Not transgender (cisgender)
Sexual orientation
Heterosexual or Straight
Disability status
Person without a disability

Race & ethnicity

Gender identity

 

Sexual orientation

No data

Disability

No data

Equity strategies

Last updated: 11/14/2021

GuideStar partnered with Equity in the Center - an organization that works to shift mindsets, practices, and systems to increase racial equity - to create this section. Learn more

Policies and processes
  • We seek individuals from various race backgrounds for board and executive director/CEO positions within our organization.
  • We engage everyone, from the board to staff levels of the organization, in race equity work and ensure that individuals understand their roles in creating culture such that one’s race identity has no influence on how they fare within the organization.