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ABA Continuing Legal Education Webinar Notes – “Doing Better at Doing Good”

by merlin on July 8th, 2015
  • Sumo

ABA Continuing Legal Education Webinar

7/8/15 – “Doing Better At Doing Good”

Geared to Nonprofits and Legal Service Providers


Speakers:        Mary Meg Mcarthy (National Immigrant Justice Center)

And Antonia K. Fasanelli (Homeless Persons Representation Project)

  • Legal representation informs approach!

Strategic Planning for a nonprofit organization

  1. External reality needs to be assessed
  2. Capacity internally to address these needs


Must do periodic INTERNAL and EXTERNAL scans (to better identify right place to channel resources).


Specifically a standalone 501(c)(3) – have to do strategic plan (3-year typical, but they do a 5-year plan) internally, because it is not a part of a larger parent company (speaking specifically to the Homeless Persons Representation Project here, which is a 501(c)(3)).


They actually have a committee to formulate the process for the strategic planning process – need to figure out the process details, such as its overall goals, etc.  This is an ongoing-ish process (developed over 6-12 months); hire a consultant or not (this one does, and they are specific people with genuine expertise in both the process and the kind of organization)

  • Environmental Scan – identify persons/organizations in the area that can best help with meeting goals and objectives of organization



  • Identifying emerging/ongoing issues (this is important for a long-term view)
  • Setting new goals and obstacles that have arisen (i.e. – ankle bracelets in pregnant immigrant mothers) – these are weekly meetings for supervisors/executives, and monthly for staff


  • Former is for public release, and latter is private as pragmatic ways to accomplish the former

See the Excel Spreadsheet in the handout materials to verify timeline progress on goals set in advance


Additional resources:

Ten Keys to Successful Strategic Planning for Nonprofit and Foundation Leaders by Richard A. Mittenthal:


  1. Evaluating Key Attributes that your Organization Can Bring to the Table

What legal service do you offer in the community and what is your method of delivery (as a UNIQUE substantive thing)?

Good INTENTIONS are not enough; without sufficient knowledge and experience, you may do more harm than good.



  • Want to have expertise in the PARTICULAR METHOD OF DELIVERY;
  • reaching the particular clients the way that is most efficient, and going to them as needed – respond to the needs of that client!
  • This is as important as having substantive expertise, because this is about practicality, too!


  • Identifying and Evaluating Successful Partnerships


  • Put the partnership IN WRITING
    • Prevents confusion down the road
    • Assign certain duties to one partner or the other, so that there is no disagreement about roles
    • Memorandum of Understanding – often necessary for grants, etc.
  • Share any and all message information so ALL partners have a CONSISTENT message!!!!
    • Realize that the proper recognition needs to go to the right party and BE SURE IT GETS ACKNOWLEDGED PROPERLY (both formally AND informally)

Rebuilding Partnerships (when trust or common understanding is broken, in some way):

  • Important to address this IMMEDIATELY
  • Don’t want any resentment to be able to FESTER.
  • Must have a mutually-beneficial partnership
    • If it is longer-term, must make sure to check in with third parties that you are mutually coordinating with (to ensure everyone is providing the support they agreed to)
    • Check on progress achieving long-term goals

2.    Persuading and Engaging Funders

  • This is a compelling story; write that story so the funders can see the work in action!
  • Let the funders SEE your work in action


Be nimble:

  • Make sure you have SPECIFICALLY identified your expertise in advance, so you don’t commit to doing something BEYOND your expertise; try to identify other resources that CAN do those things (don’t DRIFT in your mission)!
  • Provide accessible outcomes/metrics to funders:
    • A funder might want more accountability; put another person on your staff (such as a social worker or anthropologist looking for the accountability that you indicate)
    • Be strategic about adding development staff overall
      • Do they have the skills needed?
      • Are they actually going to be HELPFUL to the organization, and HOW???

3.     Board Giving

Develop clear expectations with Board Members versus Organization (in terms of WHAT they will give, HOW MUCH, etc.)

  • What if Board Members know other people, or can make in-kind contributions (no money, but time, effort, or resources)
  • Make sure Board Members DO contribute and are ACTIVELY INVOLVED in the organization’s activities

Opportunities for showing appreciation:

  • Happy hours
  • Awards (ex. to young attorneys, etc.)
  • Recognition ceremonies


Foundation Funding

  • What are “990”’s?
  • Do not call or contact organization if they made clear on their website that they will not help you – do not EVER submit a “cold proposal”
  • Get to know the program staff YOURSELF.
  • Deadlines: Submit grant reports and grant applications TIMELY.

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