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September 2019 Board of Directors Meeting Summary

The Florida Bar Foundation Board of Directors met on September 13, 2019 in Tampa.  The meeting was hosted by President Hala Sandridge’s firm, Buchanan, Ingersoll & Rooney, and allowed the Foundation to save meeting and accommodation expenses.  The Staff and Board are extremely grateful for the generous and kind gesture by President Sandridge and her firm.

The major actions of the board and reports received included:

  • Grants Allocation for FY19-20 and Grants Awards

Funding allocation for FY 19-20 grants was approved in the overall range of $15,471,732 to $17,971,732.  This range represents a 42.3% – 65.3% increase from FY 18-19.  In addition, up to $5 million in Grants reserves were set aside as was monies sufficient to pay off The Florida Bar loan so as to avoid and save interest charges.  The interest payments savings can be used to increase grants for direct services.   Of the total amount made available for funding, $4,967,175 to $7,467,175 represents unrestricted funding are represents a 22.1% to 83.5% increase over last fiscal year’s allocation.

In addition, the Board approved the scoring and funding recommendations related to the Middle District of Florida’s Order entrusting $3,622,000 to the Foundation for disbursement to qualified legal aid organizations in the Middle District of Florida to assist litigants in obtaining representation in court.  A total of $3,308,423 was awarded to nine applicants in all four divisions of the Middle District of Florida.   There remains $240,564 in available funds and a second round of applications will be processed as soon as practicable with emphasis on the Orlando and Tampa divisions.

Equal Justice Works Fellowships were also funded for two classes (2020-2022 and 2021-2023) in the total amount of $626,000.

The Board also briefly took up the issue of Loan Repayment Assistance Program (LRAP) eligibility rules.   It was decided that the issue would be addressed by a subcommittee with recommendations forthcoming thereafter.

A short discussion regarding multi-year grants (vs. single year grants) also ensued.  The general consensus is that multi-year grants have the potential to assist grantees, save staff resources and promote better budgeting forecasts.  The Board decided that staff should review the matter further and make recommendations going further, perhaps on a grant by grant basis.

  • New Spending and Reserve Policy Approved

The Board approved first reading of a new spending and reserve policy.  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 grants allocations from the Foundation allowing grantees more time for planning and budgeting.

The policy is based upon the establishment of a rolling average of net revenues and a dedicated percentage of such net revenues 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.  Afterwards, the funding factor will be increased to 90% with a yearly review by the Board.   The policy will be presented for second and final reading at the Board’s December 13, 2019 meeting.

  • Gift Acceptance Policy Amended and New Voluntary Investment Program for Grantees Approved

The Investment Committee, among other things, proposed and the Board adopted an amendment to its Gift Acceptance Policy on Disposition of Gifts of Stocks.  In short, irrespective of the dollar amount, all gifts of stock will be liquidated upon receipt as soon as practicable.

The Board also approved in concept a Voluntary Investment Program for Grantees.   If developed and implemented, this program will allow grantees to voluntarily invest their funds (primarily reserves) with the Foundation’s investment advisors which may increase grantees’ revenues which can be applied to increase direct services to constituents.  The Investment Committee will prepare the construct of this program and report back to the Board with its proposal.

  • Law School Challenge approved for second year

Law School Challenge 2.0 was approved for development and implementation.  2.0 follows on the heels of the inaugural Law School Challenge which resulted in 12 law schools participating and involved 310 students and 544 alumni signing up to take on a pro bono case.   306 matches for representation were developed.  2.0 will build on this success with improvements and better coordination.

  • Foundation commitment to technology and innovation as a means to increase access to justice

After a thorough report from an ad hoc committee that worked for three months, and a lengthy and robust discussion involving virtually all directors, the Board reiterated its commitment to technology and innovation as a means of increasing access to justice.  As a means of such, the Board authorized the payment of up to $48,058 to FJTC in order for FJTC to wind down its operations and tender to FBF all of its assets, specifically including the Gateway software.  The Board further decided to create a Technology Committee that will research, review and recommend to the Board a long-range plan involving technology.  The Board also authorized the hiring of an interim Director of Technology who will oversee and maintain the technology products and assets created by FJTC with the assistance of Foundation funding.   During the transition period and pending the Technology Committee’s proposed long-range plan, the Foundation wishes to protect and preserve the existing technology products that have been developed.

  • New Limited Matching Funds Program approved

In an effort to provide grantees opportunities to obtain other sources of funding, the Board approved the creation of a Limited Matching Funds Grant program.  This program would provide grantees limited funding in support of and/or to leverage other funding opportunities from other funding sources.  These grants will be conditioned on a grantee successfully obtaining a principal grant and overall funding allocations will be quarterly with unspent funds not carrying over.  These grants will encourage collaborative partnerships with others, thus increasing the Foundation’s overall impact and reach to more Floridians in need.

  • Cy pres award and Funding milestone

Sean Estes of Hoyer Law Group, PLLC and Clayton Yates of Fee, Yates & Fee, PLLC presented the Foundation with $21,406 gift resulting from a cy pres award issued in connection with a decades-long litigation matter related to title loans.   Bill Schifino, former president of The Florida Bar also made a brief appearance to say hello and then privately donated $1,000 to the Foundation.

Lastly, President Sandridge presented Foundation staff a plaque commemorating $500 million in lifetime (since 1982) giving.  It was noted that the Engle award granted by the federal court for the Middle of District constituted the funds that helped the Foundation achieve this milestone.

NEXT MEETING.   The Board’s next meeting will be on December 13, 2019 in Orlando, Florida.  Director Min Cho, General Counsel for UBREAKIFIX will graciously host the meeting. This will allow the Foundation to save meeting and accommodation expenses.  The Staff and Board are extremely grateful to Min and his company for the generosity and commitment to the Foundation’s mission.   The public is invited to attend, space permitting.