It's our mission...

The Foundation was established in April of 2009 to honor and continue the extraordinary work of Barbara McDowell, who committed her life to promoting a just and equitable society. See the announcement by Drinker Biddle’s Chairman about the establishment of the Foundation here. The Foundation grants funds to tax-exempt organizations that promote the Foundation’s mission through litigation designed to have systemic impact in the areas of civil rights, low income housing, political asylum, domestic violence, human trafficking, refugee rights, immigration, rights of children, voting rights, disability rights, educational rights, constitutional rights, and disparities in community services and opportunities for economic development. This systemic impact litigation should be aimed at improving the economic well-being, social conditions, and civil liberties of disadvantaged persons and groups throughout the United States.

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Our Grants

The Board met during September 2018 to discuss grant applications for 2019.  As a result of that discussion, the foundation made grants to a number of organizations.  See our list of 2019 grants. The Board meets every September to choose its grantees for the succeeding year.

Donor Guide

Why choose the McDowell Foundation for your next charitable gift? The McDowell Foundation Provides Three Essential Services for Potential Donors: In-Depth Vetting Process for Potential Grantees, Monitoring Selected Grantees during the Grant Period, and Quarterly Updates on the Status of Your Donation. Learn more here.


The Foundation’s work, and the efforts of its Board related to the work of the Foundation, appear on the “News” page. The members of the Board engage in activities to promote the efforts of the Foundation. Read More >

Apply for Grants

The process for applying for grants is explained on this website. The grant application must identify the specific legal matter for which assistance is sought. Only legal matters that address systemic legal problems that will have a high impact on a particular area of the law will be considered. A review of successful past grant awards and the Foundation’s Mission Statement will provide insight as to the matters that interest the Foundation. The Foundation supports organizations and funds matters that are consistent with Barbara McDowell’s past legal efforts and beliefs with regard to social justice.

Successful grant applicants can be considered for grants in subsequent years based upon the results of the grantee’s efforts in the prior year. View Online Application >