Grants, Grantees and the High Impact Litigation Project

We write in these troubled times to provide an update on the Barbara McDowell Foundation’s recent activities. The Foundation is very much saddened and dismayed by ongoing social and racial injustice. We can only hope that the Foundation’s efforts in some very small way help reshape our country so that justice and equality exist for all.

Update on Recent Foundation Efforts

Regarding the Foundation’s ongoing efforts towards creating social justice through legal action, June marks three important events: (1) the announcement of the acceptance of 2021 grant applications, (2) the receipt of six-month progress reports on 2020 grant-funded cases, and (3) the website posting of the details of the updated Pro Bono High Impact Litigation Project. 

2021 Grant Applications

The Barbara McDowell Foundation is now accepting applications for its 2021 social justice litigation grants and encourages interested nonprofit organizations to apply by August 1st, 2020 for grants to be awarded for the following fiscal year which is October 1st, 2020, to September 30th, 2021.  The Foundation expects to allocate $150,000 to $250,000 between five organizations for its 2021 grants.

The Barbara McDowell Foundation aims to improve the economic well-being, social conditions, and civil liberties of disadvantaged persons and groups in the United States. We fulfill our mission by making annual grants to organizations that undertake systemic, social justice litigation focusing on a variety of causes. 

Our issue areas include:

• Access to Benefits • Children’s Rights • Disability Rights • Discrimination • Domestic Violence • Homelessness • Housing • Native American Rights • Prisoners' Rights • Refugee and Immigration Rights • Voting Rights • Veterans’ Rights

A review of successful past grant awards and the Foundation’s Mission Statement provides insight as to the matters that interest the Foundation. Generally, the Foundation funds litigation matters that are consistent with our namesake Barbara McDowell’s past legal efforts and her beliefs regarding social justice.

Full application details can be found on the Process for Applying for Grants  page of the Foundation’s website. 

2020 Grantee Six-Month Reports

The Barbara McDowell Foundation 2020 grantees reported the progress of their grant-funded cases in their recently submitted Six-Month Reports. A summary of their reports can be found in a recent Foundation News story and the full reports can be found under each grantees’ listing on the Grants by Year page of the Foundation website. 

The Foundation is encouraged by the efforts of its 2020 grantees working to improve social justice. The cases supported by the Foundation’s 2020 grantees include:

Pro Bono High Impact Litigation Project

The Foundation recently revamped and expanded its Pro Bono High Impact Litigation Project to allow for additional law firms willing to undertake high impact litigation on a pro bono basis to partner on systemic social justice cases coordinated by the Foundation. The expansion of the Project brings more law firms to the effort and greatly increases the Project’s impact. Interested law firms can contact the Foundation at, to discuss serving as a partner on the Project.

Further, the revised High Impact Litigation Project includes the use of Foundation Fellows, a newly created volunteer position with the Foundation, to work on the high impact cases.  Foundation Fellows are individual volunteer attorneys, associated with the Foundation, who will bring their additional expertise to complex litigation. The volunteer work by Foundation Fellows on high impact cases allows for the expansion at no additional cost to the Project’s social justice efforts. 

The Foundation is now in the process of recruiting attorneys to be Foundation Fellows. Attorneys willing to volunteer for the Project can fill out online the Fellow profile here

Finally, the Foundation invites case proposals from nonprofit organizations for the High Impact Litigation Project on an ongoing basis. The Foundation seeks cases which will significantly improve the well-being, social conditions, and/or civil liberties of a large number of disadvantaged persons and groups throughout the United States.  

Nonprofit organizations should review the full description of the High Impact Litigation Project on the Foundation’s website and can contact the Foundation at to discuss potential cases.