Problematic success – Soros underestimates project

The National Association for Public Interest Law has been so successful with its grant matching program that it has more donations than funds to match them, the Washington Post reports.

The association began its Fellowships for Equal Justice Program in 1992 to provide modest salaries for recent law school graduates to work on issues such as homelessness, health care access, community development and immigrant rights. By 1997, the program had 23 fellows.

In 1998, the Open Society Institute, the foundation created by financier George Soros, offered the program as much as $3 million annually in matching funds.

Soros and others doubted the $3 million annual cap would be reached, but law firms proved eager to support the program to build up their pro bono practices and strengthen community networks.

With 130 current fellows, the program has been so successful that there are more sponsors and projects than matching funds to pay for them. The association is currently about $400,000 short in matching funds, down from an $800,000 deficit earlier this year.

The situation is likely to worsen when The Open Society Institute decreases its annual commitment from $3 million to $2.5 million next year.

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