Public Welfare Foundation Receives Award


Mary McClymont and the Public Welfare Foundation were honored by the National Legal Aid & Defender Association during its annual conference this week in Washington, DC. At a ceremony last night, McClymont, president of the Public Welfare Foundation, was presented with NLADA’s Justice Through Philanthropy Award, which recognizes the principle that “achieving justice is not the sole responsibility of the legal profession, but requires work across all disciplines and sectors of society.”

The Foundation was recognized for its special initiative to increase access to civil legal aid for the poor as well as its ongoing efforts to strengthen the ability of low-wage workers to promote policy and systems reform and its work to achieve reforms in the criminal and juvenile justice systems.

In accepting the award on behalf of the Foundation’s board and staff, McClymont said that “our mission is to advance justice and opportunity for people in need.” And, just as the effort to achieve justice goes beyond lawyers, she noted that the Foundation is “continually working to extend our own reach – and help our grantees do the same – especially given the huge challenge of getting to the system transformation we all seek.”

McClymont spoke, specifically, about transformation in the civil legal aid sector, in which she was involved nearly two decades ago as a program officer for civil legal aid at the Ford Foundation. By 2011, when she became president of the Public Welfare Foundation, there was a tremendous shortage of funds for a sector that was largely invisible to the public with even more people needing services. However, there were, as McClymont noted, “many new ideas burgeoning in the field that rightly deserved philanthropic investment.” In addition, polling research showed that more than 80 percent of the public was supportive of ensuring legal help for everyone dealing with a civil matter.

Explaining why she and the Foundation decided to join this effort and work to enlist other philanthropic partners, McClymont said that “we saw a sector that was indispensable to many aspects of people’s lives – their health, their safety, and their livelihood – things all Americans, including those in philanthropy, should care about. The civil legal aid field had grown with new strategic allies, new technology tools, and new, diverse partnerships within and beyond the legal community to reach out to help more people fight off foreclosures, or abusive domestic partners, or deal with other civil legal issues. This was a sector on the move…

“At the Public Welfare Foundation, we wanted to both leverage our modest funds to support the new innovations in the field and reach across philanthropy to find new partners and to help you, the lawyers, do the same,” McClymont told the audience.

Through all of these collective efforts, McClymont thought that the sector could reach its ambitious, but necessary goal of providing some form of effective assistance for 100 percent of people who need, but cannot afford, an attorney for their essential legal needs.


The Public Welfare Foundation supports efforts to advance justice and opportunity for people in need. These efforts honor the Foundation’s core values of racial equity, economic well-being, and fundamental fairness for all. The Foundation looks for strategic points where its funds can make a significant difference and improve lives through policy and system reform that results in transformative change. For more information, visit Follow the Foundation on Twitter or on Facebook.

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