Assessing your foundation’s development program: Part 1

Volume 31 Number 3

By

Chris Newbold, JD, CFRE, CSPS, is president of ALPS Foundation Services and a consultant who works with bar foundations of all shapes and sizes around the country. This topic was the focus of an interactive session sponsored by the National Conference of Bar Foundations at its most recent Annual Meeting in Honolulu. For more information about this topic or permission to utilize this development self-test with your bar foundation leadership, contact Newbold via e-mail at cnewbold@alpsnet.com or by phone at (406) 523-3885.

In the world of bar foundations, it’s often an organizational challenge to determine how leadership and development staff should invest limited time and energy into the appropriate development activities to maximize organizational potential. And let’s be honest—each bar foundation is different.

We at ALPS Foundation Services accepted the challenge to develop an assessment tool intended to help bar foundation leaders obtain a reasonably accurate impression of the quality of their current development program. Is it perfect? No. It is a work in progress, yet we’re confident it can stimulate open discussions about development activities at bar foundation board meetings nationwide.

The best way to use this development self-test is to have key organizational leadership—including staff and the board of directors—complete the assessment, compile the results into one report, and then share the overall conclusion of the results with the full group. It is meant to generate discussion and debate regarding where the bar foundation stands today from a development perspective, and where it should direct its energies in the future. Results from a self-test can:

| expose or reveal areas of potential improvement; | reinforce best practices already in place; | guide decision makers in how to use limited organizational resources in the most efficient manner; | ensure that the bar foundation is capable and ready to add a new development program or undertake a major change in direction; and | help guide an internal analysis of the bar foundation development program as a part of overall strategic planning.

The development program self-test was developed based on our research of best practices and emerging resource development trends in the bar foundation community, and in our discussions with bar foundation leaders nationwide. This self-test excludes IOLTA and other IOLTA-related revenue enhancement activities. An IOLTA self-test would be another interesting exercise.

This is the first in a two-part series that will walk you through why certain questions were incorporated into the self-test. In Part 1, we will explore the first eight questions of the self-test, leaving the remainder for Part 2. For information on how to score your self-test, see pages 22 and 23. We will include the full scoring chart again with Part 2.

Question 1: Does your bar foundation have a written plan describing its comprehensive development strategy, including clear goals and objectives?
Bar foundations with a clear vision of where they’re heading from a development perspective are more likely to succeed in revenue enhancement. Those without a plan usually fall prey to the status quo and business as usual.

Given the importance of the board in successful implementation of development activities, the ideal bar foundation development plan should be a unified vision of both board and staff. The more specifically the plan articulates who will do what and by when, the greater the prospects for success. Remember, lawyers are deadline-driven individuals, and without deadlines within your plan, months can fly by with little or no activity.

Question 2: Did 100 percent of the bar foundation board make a financial contribution in the most recently completed fiscal year?
Individuals who serve on a bar foundation board represent its highest level of decision makers. And because bar foundations are primarily fundraising entities, it’s critically important that each bar foundation board member make a financial commitment to the organization. How can a bar foundation succeed in other private bar fundraising efforts when those closest to the organization do not give?

The actual amount of the contribution is immaterial—it is the 100 percent participation that is crucial. Ideally, though, contribution amounts should be commensurate with each board member’s ability to give.

Question 3: Percentage gain in true net contributed income. (Most recent fiscal year over previous fiscal year.)
This question is fairly self-explanatory, and attempts to assess the bar foundation’s net increase in revenue from last year to the most recently completed fiscal year. Percentages will vary depending on the maturity of the bar foundation and its current revenue levels. Smaller, growing bar foundations will thus have a greater opportunity to add points.

Question 4: Does your organization generate revenue from a bar association dues checkoff or add-on?
One of perhaps the easiest revenue generation techniques used by bar foundations is the inclusion of a checkoff or voluntary add-on to the bar association dues statement. A dues checkoff provides a supplemental source of income with little work for the bar foundation or bar association. It is also an excellent means by which bar associations can encourage members to fulfill their professional responsibility to provide “equal justice under law.”

Be cautious about the amount you suggest through the dues checkoff. A minimal $25 suggested contribution can oftentimes set your bar foundation up as a $25 type of an organization. However, the higher the contribution level you seek, the more difficult it will be to gain bar association approval because of the bottom-line financial impact the dues checkoff will have on bar membership. This is a particularly important concern for voluntary bar associations.

Question 5: Is your dues checkoff set up as a negative checkoff (whereby a line on the bar dues statement indicates that a specified amount of the member’s dues will go to the bar foundation unless otherwise deducted by the bar member)?
There are various types of dues checkoffs, and how they are structured can often dictate the level of participation a bar foundation enjoys. A negative checkoff has proven to be the most effective, because of the ease in which the amount is added into the bottom line.

Question 6: Does your bar foundation have a major donor society or “fellows” program?
Lawyers, like most individuals, are attracted to clubs or other recognition societies. Over the years, bar foundations have successfully capitalized on this attraction in the form of major donor societies or “fellows” programs. Fellows programs usually are structured as multiple-year pledges aimed at cultivating the donor, and are sometimes invitation-only. One of the goals of a fellows program is to elevate your donors to higher giving levels, and these fellows will oftentimes come out of your annual donor pool.

There are many bar foundations that are “stuck” in the traditional fellows model of $100 a year for 10 years, which was the formula originally used by the American Bar Foundation. Well, $100 10 years ago is approximately $230 today, and 10-year commitments are difficult to fulfill. In structuring your major donor program, think about three- to five-year commitments at levels of $250 or more.

Question 7: Do the executive director, board president, or other board directors participate in personal or law firm gift solicitations, or event sponsorship solicitations?
There is no better form of personal solicitation than a face-to-face ask. It sends a strong message to your prospective donors that you took the time and effort to meet with them, and has proven to be a much stronger return on investment than mail, phone, or e-mail solicitations. Unquestionably, it is more time consuming, but it will pay important dividends in your fund development activities.

Question 8: Which of the following planned gift strategies does your bar foundation employ: newsletter articles; personal contact; seminars; brochure mailings; e-mail signature line; reminder slip in thanks; check box on return envelope or pledge card?
Planned giving is one of the fastest growing areas in nonprofit fund development. Bar foundations spend years cultivating lawyers to make annual gifts, but often fail to take advantage of donor interest in making a planned or deferred gift as part of the donor’s estate planning. The United States is about to embark on the greatest intergenerational transfer of wealth in its history, and bar foundations should be positioned as a possible beneficiary.

It is incumbent on the bar foundation to express its interest in receiving such gifts, and to have an understanding of how such gifts can be advantageous from a tax perspective to the donor. Thus, take this opportunity to think about how your bar foundation markets planned giving opportunities, and understand there is a direct nexus between effective marketing and effective fundraising.

In Part 2, we will discuss the final nine questions in the self-test.

A DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM SEL
Approximate Time to Complete This Test: 5-10 Minutes

QUESTIONS/SCORING/POINTS EARNED

1. Does your bar foundation have a written plan describing its comprehensive development strategy, including clear
goals and objectives?/7 points if yes, 0 points for no/
2. Did 100% of the bar foundation board make a financial contribution in the most recently completed fiscal year?/7 points if yes, 0 points if no/
3. Percentage gain in true net contributed income. (Most recent fiscal year over previous fiscal year.)/20 points for 30% increase or more, 15 points for 20 – 30% gain, 10 points for 10 – 20% gain, 5 points for 5 – 10% gain, 1 point for each % gain between 1 & 5%, 0 points if declining net contributed income
4. Does your organization generate revenue from a bar association dues checkoff or add-on?/5 points for yes, (Add 3 more points if your dues checkoff is or suggested at $50 or more), 0 points for no
5. Is your dues checkoff set up as a negative checkoff (whereby a line on the bar dues statement indicates that a specified amount of the member’s dues will go to the bar foundation unless otherwise deducted by the bar member)?/5 points for yes, 0 points for no
6. Does your bar foundation have a major donor society or “fellows” program?/5 points for yes (If suggested fellows contribution is $100 or less, deduct 1 point; if $500 or more, add 3 points), 0 points for no
7. Do the executive director, board president, or other board directors participate in personal or law firm gift solicitations, or event sponsorship solicitations?/1/2 point for each personal visit during the most recent fiscal year (Maximum of 20 points)
8. Which of the following planned gift strategies does your bar foundation employ: newsletter articles; personal contact; the most recent fiscal year seminars; brochure mailings; e-mail signature line; reminder slip in thanks; check box on return envelope or pledge card?/2 points for each strategy employed during, (Maximum of 10 points)
9. Does your bar foundation conduct an annual law firm giving program?/6 points for yes, 0 points for no
10. Does your bar foundation regularly generate and analyze fundraising reports that indicate net contributed income from each appeal or special event?/10 points for yes, 0 points for no
11. Does your bar foundation promptly thank each contributor?/5 points for 2-day turnaround or less, 3 points if 7 days or less, 0 points if longer
12. Has your bar foundation adopted a formalized acknowledgment program?/5 points if yes, 0 points if no
13. Has your bar foundation adopted a prospect identification, rating, and cultivation system?/5 points if 50 prime prospects have been identified, 5 points if requested amounts assigned to 30 or more prime prospects, 5 points if your prime prospects have been contacted by the bar foundation in two different ways within the past 6 months
14. Has your bar foundation implemented a bequest program for bar leaders and others interested in leaving a legal legacy (or another planned/deferred gift opportunity)?/5 points for yes, 0 points for no
15. Does your bar foundation actively promote memorial gifts for the passing of lawyers, as a recognition opportunity for special occasions or as a means for a law firm to recognize the accomplishments of firm members?/5 points for yes, 0 points for no
16. Has your bar foundation promoted the doctrine of cy pres to direct class action residuals from lawsuits to the bar foundation?/5 points for integration of cy pres into your overall development (5 additional points for each cy pres award secured during the most recent fiscal year; maximum of 10 points), 0 points for no
17. Does your bar foundation annually solicit the bar membership for support in ways other than a dues checkoff?/10 points for yes, 0 points for no

TOTAL POINTS
(MAXIMUM OF 145)

90 AND UP
EXCELLENT
Keep up the good work! You are a model bar foundation that others should work to replicate.

70–90
VERY GOOD
You’re doing better than many but
there’s still room for growth.

50–70
AVERAGE
Focus on high-paying activities and
dramatically increase contributed income.

Under 50
POOR
Review untapped opportunities and
look for areas of improvement.

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