When most of us think about legal aid, we think about lawyers on the front lines serving clients. But, there are a lot of things going on behind the scenes to ensure that those lawyers have the resources and flexibility they need to provide effective direct legal services.
In December, The Florida Bar Foundation’s board of directors approved two projects to help grantees boost their financial positions, allowing them to be more nimble financially. The Limited Matching Funds Grant Program (LMFGP) will provide grantees the opportunity to apply for limited funding in support of or to leverage funding opportunities from other funding sources. The Spending and Reserve Policy will provide greater economic stability and instill a more consistent and predictable grants process for grantees.
The Limited Matching Funds Grant Program was developed in response to Foundation grantees’ desire to apply for grants from other funders that require secondary sources or matching funds as a condition of a primary, larger grant. The LMFGP grants are expected to range from $5,000 to $25,000 and will be awarded on a rolling basis. The Foundation expects the program will help grantees diversify and leverage their funding, which improves sustainability.
The Spending and Reserve Policy’s objective is to develop a systemic approach for the establishment of reserves and resulting spending. The policy establishes a three-year rolling average of Foundation funds available for grant allocation. A dedicated percentage of the rolling average is then allocated for grants with the remainder placed in reserves. The policy provides greater transparency and more notice of expected grant allocations, allowing grantees more time for planning and budgeting. It also helps the Foundation rebuild its reserves, which were decimated due to low interest rates after the Great Recession.
Though behind the scenes, these programs will undoubtedly have a beneficial impact on our grantees’ bottom lines, resulting in more funds available for the front lines.
Another win for our grantees is the contract that the Foundation recently signed to continue the use of Legal Server. Legal Server is a web-based case management system that 26 of our grantees use to track cases and need, communicate, and store data. The Foundation funds Legal Server up front and is reimbursed by each grantee. Florida is one of only a few states that coordinates with all of its legal aid programs to be on the same platform. The new contract allows us to lock in our price for up to 31 grantees for at least four years. Legal Server also agreed to provide free hosting as part of the contract, which saves us money and administrative overhead.
Behind the scenes at the Foundation, we welcomed three new employees recently. Eli Mattern is our interim director of technology. Lizzie Tracy is our new IOTA remittance specialist, replacing Emily Silva, who served us for 27 years, and Shayla Connell is our new administrative assistant.
As always, I thank you for your support of The Florida Bar Foundation.
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. In 2018, 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.