Unified Giving – A Dynamic Approach to Legal Aid Support


By Thomas A. Brophy, president emeritus at Marshall Dennehey Warner Coleman & Goggin, P.C., and president of the Philadelphia Bar Foundation.

With the end of the year quickly approaching, the Philadelphia Bar Foundation has spared no effort in reviewing and discussing ways to maximize civil legal aid to those in need. In 2018, the Bar Foundation will approach law firm fundraising with a new donation structure in mind – a Unified Approach to Giving.

I have previously written in this column about the subject of unified giving. In June 2017, in an article entitled “Growing the Pie,” I described the need for a new and contemporary model for fundraising at the Bar Foundation. The Unified Approach to Giving requests an annual commitment from our major donors of an annual one-time gift that provides sustenance to the Bar Foundation for the whole year. There are many reasons why this makes sense, and we hope that all Philadelphia law firms, large and small, will support us in this effort.

Lightening the Load of Event-Focused Fundraising

In the past, the Bar Foundation has solicited law firms throughout the year, sometimes beginning outreach for future event sponsorship immediately following the completion of a different event. Although we have always had a positive response from our law firm sponsors, ticket purchasers, and auction item donors, the process of contributor solicitation leading up to an event is a demanding task for a small staff and a Board comprised of senior leaders. For the Bar Foundation, the Golf & Tennis Classic and the Access to Justice Benefit (formerly known as The Andrew Hamilton Ball), are all-year full-time endeavors.

The Unified Approach to Giving seeks to lighten this load and make more time available for high-level guidance and proactive strategic planning for the future of the Bar Foundation. As we advance toward the Philadelphia Equal Justice Center project becoming a reality, this is especially important. It will allow all of us involved with the project to focus on creating a transformative environment for the non-profit partners that are co-located in the building, providing them with support as they work to enhance the quality of life in Philadelphia for decades to come.

Providing Long-Term Sustainability

Giving projections are also favorable under this model due to reduced Bar Foundation expenses in seeking donations and sponsorships at multiple times during the year. Our Board members will turn their attention to developing deeper, mutually beneficial relationships with donors and constituents. Unified giving commitments will provide the Bar Foundation with more flexibility and will allow us to restructure our event model to maximize revenue and reduce costs. We will investigate and plan for new types of events to generate additional gifts while simultaneously raising awareness for the Bar Foundation’s work in strengthening the civil legal aid community in Philadelphia.

The Bar Foundation is always striving to find innovative solutions to the legal aid challenges in our city. More than a quarter of all Philadelphians live below the federal poverty line and only 1-in-5 low-income individuals and families in Philadelphia receive the civil legal assistance needed to address crucial problems affecting their lives. This lack of access to justice compromises an individual’s ability to exercise their basic rights and fully participate in our economic and civic systems.

It is important to note that the Unified Approach to Giving does not affect individual contributions which are a substantial part of the Philadelphia Bar Foundation’s revenue through the year. Every individual donor that gives a gift to the Bar Foundation is valued. There are many worthy organizations to donate to, and we appreciate each Philadelphia Bar Foundation gift in every amount.

For more information on our new approach, or to understand how your firm can be involved, please reach out to me directly. I look forward to hearing from you and to helping you move forward in this new partnership model with the Bar Foundation.