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Message from the President – Summer 2019

Hala Sandridge

Benjamin Franklin once said, “You may delay, but time will not.” The poet John Mark Green wrote, “I blinked my eyes and in an instant, decades had passed.” These quotes capture some of the sentiments the Foundation has and is experiencing.

Hala Sandridge

Hala A. Sandridge

What had been expected to be a short-term downturn in the economy in 2007 turned into a decade-long dry spell and perhaps America’s longest and greatest recession. Interest rates remained virtually non-existent, literally crushing IOTA revenues, once the primary source of Foundation funding. While individual donations rose, there simply wasn’t enough money to continue providing civil legal aid funding at the previous levels.
Seeing that the path forward was fraught with lagging funding from IOTA, our board of directors implemented a Strategic Reset.

Importantly, in implementing the Strategic Reset, we remained mindful of the fact that the Foundation was not changing its mission, only its mindset. The Reset was forged with the realization that every dollar granted needs to be used as efficiently as possible; be used to increase collaboration among grantees; promote best practices and sharing; facilitate innovation; and help grantees grow and sustain wide-ranging impact work.

In order to accomplish these and other objectives, we also realized we needed to establish a baseline and develop metrics in order to gauge not only the success of our grantees, but the effectiveness and impact of the Reset itself. This resulted in the development of 11 key metrics which are discussed in more detail and can be found at https://bit.ly/2TK50KF.

In the interim, the Foundation embarked on new and innovative approaches such as facilitating a partnership between Florida Rural Legal Services and Toyota to increase productivity through process improvement; creating Florida Pro Bono Matters, the first online program of its kind in the U.S. to connect lawyers to pro bono cases statewide; transitioning to competitive grant-making which emphasizes collaboration and teamwork amongst grantees; and investing in and promoting technology and innovation projects designed to increase access to justice. The Foundation is also constantly exploring other funding sources and possible partners, given the inevitable changes experienced and expected in virtually all sectors of our society, including the courts and the banking industry in particular.

Because of limited resources and a changing dynamic, we must continue to think outside of the box for innovative solutions. We send our grantees to trainings and conferences to learn from other states and programs. We crowdsource better policies and procedures to share with our grantees. Now, we maximize our impact by supporting community lawyering, education and outreach, policy advocacy, and replicable and scalable projects.

The stark reality is that current resources are limited and the need, along with Florida’s population, continues to grow in explosive fashion. But, Florida, and the Foundation in particular, is blessed with tremendous talent, commitment and dedicated leadership. Together, I am confident we can confront our reality, effectively increase access to justice and make a better place for us all. In the words of Mother Teresa, “Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.”

Florida Bar Foundation President Hala A. Sandridge began her term July 1. A co-managing shareholder of the Tampa office of Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney, she is a member of the firm’s board of directors and chair of its appellate practice group. She earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Florida and her law degree from the Florida State University College of Law. Last year, Sandridge was reappointed to the Florida Supreme Court Judicial Nominating Commission. She is a recipient of the Hillsborough County Bar Association’s Jimmy Kynes Pro Bono Award, The Florida Bar President’s Pro Bono Service Award and the Distinguished Pro Bono Award from Bay Area Legal Services.