The Florida Bar Foundation Board of Directors met on December 13, 2019, in Orlando. The meeting was hosted by Director Min Cho, General Counsel for UBREAKIFIX. This allowed the Foundation to save considerable expenses, and the staff and board are extremely grateful for the generous and kind gesture by Min Cho.
The major actions of the board and reports received included:
• Foundation receives “clean audit” by independent auditor
BDO USA, Inc. audited the consolidated financial statements of The Florida Bar Foundation, Inc. and The Florida Bar Foundation Endowment Trust and concluded that such financial statements present fairly, in all material respects, the consolidated financial position of the Foundation and the Endowment Trust as of June 30, 2019, and 2018, and the consolidated results of their activities and cash flows for the years then ended in accordance with accounting principles generally accepted in the United States of America. The Committee, chaired by Judge Edwin Scales, III recommended, and the Board approved, acceptance of the report along with the determination that there was no need for a forensic audit or further investigation. Judge Scales further commended the work of the staff.
• $6,443,162 in 2020 Community Economic Development grants awarded
The Community Economic Development Grant Program is a competitive grant program focused on improving economic development in Florida communities. Funding was made available through proceeds derived from a national settlement involving Bank of America. The Board approved and awarded 25 grants in the total amount of $6,443,162. This award will be the last CED grants awards using BOA settlement funds because such settlement account has been depleted.
• 235 Loan Repayment Assistance Program (LRAP) Loans approved
The Board approved 235 LRAP applications totaling $1,175,000. The maximum benefit for each applicant is $5,000, which may be forgiven if the applicant, a civil legal aid staff attorney employed by a Foundation grantee providing more than half of their time providing direct legal services to clients on behalf of the organization, remains employed with the organization and confirms that he or she has in fact applied the loan proceeds to pay off student loan debt. Due to extra proceeds received from the Foundation’s annual Medal of Honor dinner last June, and savings from other unspent grant monies, the Board was able to fund an additional 35 loans this year. The Foundation was one of the first in the nation to provide LRAP loans and the program is now in its 19th year.
After the applications were approved, a discussion ensued about the overall program and possible need to expand the program with either more applicants or higher loan amounts. An ad hoc committee was formed to consider the issues and report back.
• New Limited Matching Funds Program Adopted
Effective January 1, 2020, the Board adopted and implemented a Limited Matching Funds Grant program. The LMFGP provides grantees the opportunity to apply for limited funding in support of or to leverage funding opportunities from other funding sources. These grants will be conditioned on a grantee successfully obtaining a primary grant and overall funding allocations will be quarterly with unspent funds not carrying over. These grants are designed to help grantees identify and secure more partners and funding sources, thus improving their sustainability. They also encourage collaborative partnerships with others, increasing the Foundation’s overall impact and reach to more Floridians in need.
• 2020-2021 Officers elected
The Nominating Committee presented, and the Board elected, the following officers for service in 2020-21:
President Thomas R. Oldt
President- Elect Stephen R. Senn
First Vice President Connie Bookman
Second Vice President Honorable Suzanne Van Wyk
Congratulations and thanks go to these individuals for their leadership by example.
• Inaugural Technology Committee meeting and hiring of Interim Director of Technology.
The Foundation’s Technology Committee held its inaugural meeting on December 12, and Committee Chair Murray Silverstein presided. The Committee’s charge is to “review, research, develop and recommend a long-range plan for the Foundation as it relates to the promotion, funding and development of technology and innovation for increased access to justice by self-represented individuals, civil legal aid providers, and Florida lawyers.”
Pursuant to the Board’s directive, a comprehensive nationwide search which was commenced and well received (72 applicants). Eli Mattern was recommended by staff and endorsed by the Technology Committee to serve as the Foundation’s Interim Director of Technology. The Board approved the hiring, and Ms. Mattern has been hired, effective December 16, 2019. Her primary duties consist of managing the Foundation’s existing technology portfolio, assisting the Technology Committee in the development of the Foundation’s long-range technology goals and plan, coordinating with potential stakeholders, and supporting the Foundation Board and Technology Committee. The Foundation is excited to have Eli join the staff and the Technology Committee is expected to publish its report and recommendation by January 1, 2021.
• New Spending and Reserve Policy Adopted
The Board adopted a new spending and reserve policy, effective immediately. The policy provides greater economic stability to the Foundation and instills a more consistent and predictable grants process for grantees. It also provides grantees greater transparency and more notice of expected grant allocations from the Foundation allowing grantees more time for planning and budgeting.
The policy is based upon the establishment of a rolling average of Foundation funds available for allocation (grant allocations) and a dedicated percentage of such funds to annual grants with the remainder placed in reserves. In addition to grants reserves, special reserves were identified for funding to set levels. Once special reserves are capped, the percentage ratio between grants and reserves will be adjusted to allow for more monies to be directed to grants funding (and less for reserves).
The policy will establish a three-year rolling average of net revenues and apply an 80% factor to the resulting average to be used for grants and awards until such time as special reserves are capped. Afterward, the funding factor will be increased to 90% with a yearly review by the Board.
• Budget & Finance Committee reports on Community Champions Program for increased IOTA revenues – ad hoc committee formed
Committee Chair Steve Senn reported that monies for promoting the Foundation’s Community Champions program, a program designed to persuade Florida’s IOTA banks to waive service charges and raise IOTA accounts’ interest rates, were being dedicated in an attempt to get the remaining 58 of Florida’s 175 IOTA banks to waive service charges. If successful in getting these banks to waive their service charges, an additional $2.4 million per year could be realized. Director Hudgins exclaimed that increasing IOTA revenues should be the number one priority of the Foundation. An ad hoc committee was formed at Mr. Hudgins’ suggestion to review his specific ideas and suggestions.
• New Building Committee convenes
Chaired by First Vice President Steve Senn, the New Building Committee held its first meeting. The committee is exploring opportunities related to the purchase of a building that could house the Foundation, provide needed storage space and potentially raise revenues for the Foundation. If successful, leasing and storage rental expenses could be offset or eliminated, with potential savings amounting to approximately $135,000 per year.
• Grantee Voluntary Investment Program tabled
Per the Board’s September 2019 approval in concept, the first reading of a Voluntary Investment Program which would allow grantees to invest their funds using the Foundation’s investment policy was presented. The matter was tabled after concerns were raised over the sufficiency of a yet to be written hold harmless agreement which will be required as part of the policy. Questions of existing insurance coverage available to the Foundation for its investment policy were also raised. Investment Committee Chair Carl Domino suggested that an ad hoc committee be formed to address these issues and that those who raised such concerns should serve on the committee. President Hala Sandridge appointed an ad hoc committee to report back.
• Operation Firm Handshake approved for launch
The board approved funding for Operation Firm Handshake, a project designed to turbocharge Florida Pro Bono Matters by building in a pro bono relationship manager tool that methodically recruits pro bono volunteers and keeps them engaged with Florida Pro Bono Matters, the Foundation and all of its grantees providing direct legal services to clients. The system will collect and analyze information available on Florida Pro Bono Matters and present attorneys with opportunities most likely aligned with each attorney’s preference and skill set. The buildout of the project will commence for statewide implementation in 2020.
• $10,000 contribution to Endowment from Criminal Law Section of TFB
The Criminal Law Section of the Florida Bar contributed $10,000 to the Florida Bar Foundation Endowment Trust. The Foundation is most appreciative of the generous gift and commends the section for its continued support of the Foundation and its mission.
The Board’s next meeting will be on March 27, 2020, in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. Director Murray Silverstein and his firm, Greenspoon Marder, will be hosting the meeting. This will allow the Foundation to save considerable expenses. The Staff and Board are extremely grateful to Murray and his firm for the generosity and commitment to the Foundation’s mission. The public is invited to attend, space permitting.