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 the 2006 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 email@example.com or by phone at (406) 523-3885.
The following is the second in a two-part series that outlines a bar foundation development self-test intended to help bar foundation leaders obtain a reasonable impression of the current state of their development programs. In the January-February issue of Bar Leader, the first eight questions of the self-test were examined. This second part explores the relevance of questions 9 through 17. For your convenience, the scoring information that accompanied Part 1 is repeated in this issue and can be found on pages 20 and 21.
Question 9: Does your bar foundation conduct an annual law firm giving program?
Although 84 percent of all charitable donations nationwide come from individuals, bar foundations would be best served by understanding their particular prospect pool. Within the legal community, one of the primary opportunities for private bar fundraising is through law firms. Law firms oftentimes have a greater capacity to give than individual lawyers, and many individual lawyers prefer to give through the law firm checkbook.
One of the more innovative approaches to law firm giving is to ask for the equivalent of one or two billable hours per attorney in the firm as a charitable donation. For example, a firm of 10 lawyers who bill, on average, $200 an hour could garner a contribution of $2,000. In approaching law firms, use the connections to senior firm partners that exist through the bar foundation’s board of directors.
Law firm support can account for as much as 60 percent of all private bar fundraising contributions, so failure to seek law firm support can be a glaring void in any bar foundation’s development activities.
Question 10: Does your bar foundation regularly generate and analyze fundraising reports that indicate net contributed income from each appeal or special event?
An essential feature of any well-developed fundraising program is the ability to properly evaluate the success (or failure) of particular fundraising activities. Every bar foundation has a finite amount of time it can spend on fundraising activities, which means organizational time allocation is critical in maximizing charitable support. Each fundraising appeal or special event should be evaluated on an ongoing basis to determine whether it is producing an adequate return on investment when compared with resources expended. If it is not, perhaps the activity should be either discontinued or improved.
One development area where this is most relevant is in special events. Many bar foundations boast of events that generate upwards of $15,000 in a single evening. However, is that the net income? Have staff time, board time, and hard costs been properly factored in? Oftentimes, special events can be a drain on organizational resources, and bar foundations continue to waste time and effort in lieu of other, high-net gain fundraising activities.
Question 11: Does your bar foundation promptly thank each contributor?
This question is fairly self-explanatory; a bar foundation’s acknowledgment of donor support is critical from a cultivation perspective. Most bar foundations work within jurisdictions where they can build personal, one-on-one relationships with donors. The faster a bar foundation can thank contributors for their support, the better.
For example, if more than a week goes by without a thank-you, you have failed to prioritize your donor relationship, which may affect future support.
Question 12: Has your bar foundation adopted a formalized acknowledgment program?
Successful bar foundations incorporate certain policies and procedures intended to ensure a degree of consistency in how they interact with and value charitable supporters. How quickly will donors be acknowledged? How much communication will the bar foundation have with its donors? Is the bar foundation “touching” its donors consistently through the year? Does the bar foundation differentiate donors who give at greater levels? In what way, and is that appropriate? The bar foundation board of directors should understand what its strategies are in this area and ensure such strategies are executed appropriately.
Question 13: Has your bar foundation adopted a prospect identification, rating, and cultivation system?
Once again, this question assesses whether the bar foundation expends its limited development resources in an appropriate manner. There are always certain lawyers, law firms, and prospects with a greater propensity to give to the bar foundation because of long-standing relationships with the bar association, passion for bar foundation programs, or other factors. Bar foundations are best served by spending time identifying, rating, and cultivating the right prospects.
Who those prospects are depends upon the bar foundation and the development activity in which support is being sought. For example, prospects for a planned giving society may differ from prospects for the annual appeal or potential attendees at an upcoming bar foundation special event. Research, identify, and know your prospect pool.
Question 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)?
Most bar foundation leaders have heard about the revenue-producing potential of planned and deferred gifts but fail to incorporate such activities into the development plan. Start simple and implement a charitable bequest program. Charitable bequests are the most frequent type of planned gift, and can yield the highest dollar amount. And a bar foundation’s target audience—lawyers—is familiar with how they work.
Via a bequest program, donors note in their wills what property they wish to gift to the bar foundation. Gift examples include cash, stock, bonds, art, or almost anything of value. Charitable bequests also represent a great opportunity for lawyers to give back to the profession and leave a legal legacy.
Question 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?
Across the board, bar foundations fail to capitalize on the potential of memorial gifts to commemorate the passing of a lawyer, or to recognize a lawyer for an award or professional achievement. Market your bar foundation’s interest in facilitating and accepting such gifts, and the gifts likely will come. Most lawyers simply do not know of your interest in accepting such gifts, and many memorial gifts can be quite large in amount.
Question 16: Has your bar foundation promoted the doctrine of cy pres to direct class action residuals from lawsuits to the bar foundation?
An innovative source of bar foundation funding gaining in popularity is the use of the cy pres doctrine to direct class action residuals, and possibly other funds resulting from lawsuits, to bar foundations. The doctrine of cy pres was first used as a method of fairly distributing a trust fund when the original purpose could not be achieved. Under cy pres, funds are distributed to the “next best” use. For some time, courts have been using this doctrine to award residual funds from class action lawsuits to bar foundations, legal aid providers, or other related nonprofit organizations.
If your bar foundation is in a jurisdiction with a fair amount of class action litigation, think about how to promote the bar foundation as a prospective recipient of such residual funds, which can be quite large. The Chicago Bar Foundation recently secured a $2 million cy pres award, which it used to create a loan repayment fellowship program for legal aid attorneys.
Question 17: Does your bar foundation annually solicit bar membership for support in ways other than a dues checkoff?
Successful bar foundations approach their prospects with a variety of outreach activities intended to maximize potential charitable support. The bar association dues checkoff is still a good starting point, but the days of reliance upon the checkoff for bar foundation support are over. Fundraising approaches should be diversified to provide lawyers with a variety of opportunities to give over the course of a year. Perhaps the most fundamental approach is a simple annual direct mail solicitation or an annual special event. However, other approaches are available and should be explored.
How are you doing?
In Part 1, we explained that this assessment tool is still a work in progress, one that we hope to perfect in the coming years. However, we hope the current version has helped you assess where you are now, and perhaps helped you identify some areas to work on. Each and every bar foundation is different, and there are resources available if foundation leadership is interested in investing in growth.
As charitable support continues to grow within the nonprofit sector nationwide, this presents an exciting and innovative time for bar foundations. Invest in capturing that potential.
A DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM SELF-TEST FOR BAR FOUNDATIONS
(excluding IOLTA-related revenue)
Approximate Time to Complete This Test: 5-10 Minutes
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. 20 points for 30% increase or
(Most recent fiscal year over previous fiscal year.) 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
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, 5 points for yes
6. Does your bar foundation have a major donor society or “fellows” program? 5 points for yes, 0 points for no (If suggested fellows contribution is $100 or less, deduct 1 point; if $500 or more, add 3 points)
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; 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 the most recent fiscal year (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
(MAXIMUM OF 145)
90 AND UP
Keep up the good work! You are a model bar foundation that others should work to replicate.
You’re doing better than many but
there’s still room for growth.
Focus on high-paying activities and
dramatically increase contributed income.
Review untapped opportunities and
look for areas of improvement.