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Standard 1.1-6 on Resource Development

Standard 1.1‑5 | Table of Contents | Standard 1.2


The governing body should ensure that the legal aid organization engages in resource development and should directly assist in those efforts.


General Considerations

Demand for legal assistance for communities served by organizations almost invariably outstrips the resources available to meet the most compelling civil legal needs of those communities. An organization must pursue assertive strategies to expand available financial resources to meet these needs. The governing body has several key roles to play in helping the organization meet its responsibilities for resource development, including implementing supportive policies, engaging in appropriate planning, and assuring adequate staffing and resources to support fundraising efforts. 

Governing body members should also participate directly in developing and implementing resource development strategies aimed at private, governmental, and corporate funding sources. The governing body's members collectively should have the experience, skills, and contacts to be effective in resource development work. The governing body may establish a separate fundraising committee or advisory board to augment its resource development capacity.

Effective resource development is grounded in part in the reputation of the organization as being effective. The more stature and credibility an organization has as an institution, the more successful it is likely to be in attracting and retaining funding from private organizations, government agencies, and individual donors. The governing body should also ensure that the organization's management complies with all grant and contract requirements so that existing funding is preserved. A reputation for meeting contractual requirements of current funding is one critical component for success in obtaining additional resources. 

An extended discussion of all potential fundraising strategies and their merits and limitations is beyond the scope of these Standards. The organization should take advantage of the many sources of guidance available to identify resource development opportunities and help choose those appropriate for it to pursue. The organization's resource development staff and key members of the governing body should attend trainings to increase their skill level and knowledge of fundraising opportunities.

Governing Body Responsibilities

Planning. The governing body should adopt a policy that encourages the organization to obtain new resources to support its work. It should ensure that the organization's strategic planning includes a component for increasing its financial resources. It should work closely with the chief executive, who shares fundamental responsibility with the governing body for resource development. Other staff, particularly senior management, are also likely to be called upon to engage in fundraising efforts in a variety of ways, including helping conceptualize and write grant proposals, working cooperatively with other organizations in developing joint proposals, and making appropriate contacts with potential funding sources.

Budgeting. In the budgeting process, the governing body should set a target for annual revenue that takes current grants and contracts into account and sets goals for new income to meet the organization's commitments and to respond to the needs of the communities it serves. The amount set should be based on a thoughtful assessment of potential funding sources. If the organization is not raising sufficient funds to meet current responsibilities and respond to newly emerging legal needs in the community, the governing body needs to increase efforts to raise additional revenue. 

It is important that the governing body assess organizational budgets with an eye toward revenue diversity to avoid overreliance on a particular source, as well as to provide adequate resources and support for diversification of funding.

Establishing clear responsibilities for members of the governing body and the staff. Many resource development tasks will fall to the staff of the organization. Other responsibilities will be assigned to the governing body or to individual members of the governing body. The organization should clearly delineate staff and governing body responsibilities for all aspects of its resource development efforts, including:

  • Research on potential funding sources;
  • Development of funding requests and other materials necessary to support the fundraising effort; 
  • Recruitment of volunteers to lead, organize and implement fundraising efforts like lawyer fund drives and major gift campaigns;
  • Cultivation and solicitation of the potential sources of funding, including public and private organizations and individual donors;
  • Follow-up with potential donors;
  • Acknowledgement of grants, individual donations, and other contributions; and
  • Ensuring sufficient staffing and other capacities to identify, procure, and implement grants and grant-funded projects.

Oversight of the organization's resource development. The governing body should oversee the organization's resource development efforts to ensure that it accomplishes its fundraising goals and the resources obtained help the organization to accomplish its mission. Resource development plans should tie fundraising to the organization's strategic plan or to new initiatives consistent with its mission. The resources obtained should not dilute the organization's core capacity by taking on projects that are not related to addressing the most compelling needs of the communities it serves. The core capacity can also be diluted if the organization takes on a large number of small projects whose funding does not cover administrative support and other staff costs. Decisions to pursue funding for these smaller projects should include consideration of both the tangible and intangible benefits to the organization, the sustainability of such projects, and whether they may lead to future larger funding opportunities.

Direct support of resource development by the members of the governing body. Individual members of the governing body should support the resource development efforts of the organization, through direct involvement in fundraising and personal contributions to support the organization's work. The organization should, when seeking new members of the governing body, clearly articulate expectations for participation in resource development. It should recruit members who can assist in the organization's resource development efforts, whether through contacts with potential donors and funders, or through active engagement in articulating the needs of the communities the organization serves. 

Depending on the organization's resource development plan and strategy, individual members of the governing body may be asked to solicit contributions from associates and friends. Members should be prepared to approach their contacts on behalf of the organization for annual giving campaigns, direct mail contributions, special events such as annual dinners and auctions, major gifts and/or planned giving. Individual members might also be asked to use their contacts in government, corporations, foundations, and other potential funding sources to support solicitations of grants and contracts. Such contacts should be in accordance applicable law and ethics rules.

The organization should also clearly set forth its expectations that members of the governing body make their own personal financial contributions to the organization to the extent of their capacity. The organization should encourage all members to contribute, even if it is only a nominal contribution from client and community members who cannot afford more. Some foundations and major donors expect a 100 percent giving level from current governing body members of organizations they fund. Consider the equity of this request and its impact on all governing body members before implementing such an obligation.

Creation of additional fundraising capacity. The governing body may wish to consider creating a separate committee or fundraising board to assist with resource development. While all members of the governing body are expected to support the resource development effort, some members will be better suited than others to the active pursuit of funds from individual donors, foundations, and other public and private sources. A governing body should have a balance between those members who can open doors to potential funding sources and those who have been recruited because of their substantive expertise or their connections with the communities served by the organization. A separate fundraising group can supplement the capacity of the governing body by recruiting persons who would be effective in raising resources for an organization, but who would not be interested in a policymaking role, or might not meet the requirements of major funding sources regarding the makeup of the governing body.