Legal Services: 5 Tips to Tap into Grants

Historically, legal service organizations have not been a large beneficiary of grants from community foundations.  At the last South Carolina Access to Justice Commission meeting, Tom Keith from Sisters of Charity Foundation of South Carolina (Sisters of Charity) and Mac Bennett from United Way of the Midlands  (UWay) provided insight into this practice as well as information to change it.

One obstacle for many legal service providers is geography.  Sisters of Charity is the only statewide community foundation in South Carolina.  Most community foundations in South Carolina limit the grant award to specific geographic regions.  This presents a problem for entities that provide statewide legal services.

Another reason for the lack of funding from community foundations is the failure to ask.  According to Tom Keith, in the last 10 years, Sisters of Charity has received only 10 requests from legal service organizations. 

Despite the prohibitions for statewide legal service providers, the need for legal services is currently on the rise. 

Mac Bennett reported that United Way of the Midlands recently interviewed approximately 1500 people in a local Bi-Lo parking lot to learn how the economy was affecting them and what they were struggling with the most.  The 3rd highest indicator of need with people earning less than $25,000 a year was the need for legal services.  This survey reflects a need for legal service organizations to more effectively communicate to community foundations when seeking grants. 

Here are the FIVE TIPS from Tom and Mac:

  1. Educate the foundation throughout the year.  Do not wait until it is time to ask for funding to notify the foundation about who you are.  Send the foundation newsletters, brochures, links to websites—anything that will introduce your organization to the foundation before the funding request is due.  Foster a relationship with the foundation PRIOR to your request.
  2. State measurable outcomes in your request.  Community foundations want to know that their money will make a tangible difference in the life of your organization and those you serve.  The more numbers you can track and report,  the better.
  3. Clearly state the need.  Be specific about the need(s) the grant will address.  Clearly state who you are going to serve and the impact their dollars will make. 
  4. Make requests geared towards a specific program or project.  Community foundations are often hesitant to fund salaries and/or operational costs because they do not want an organization to become dependent on their funding from year to year just to keep their doors open.  They prefer to fund projects and programs that will have a specific impact on the community.
  5. Make sure your mission matches the mission of the foundation.  Community foundations are mission driven.  Be clear about how the mission of your organization is in line with the mission of the foundation.  Pay attention to the funding priorities of the organization so you don’t waste your time or theirs. 

-Allie

Advertisements

Don’t Get Hurled Away by a Hurricane!

Hurricane 09

Hurricane season is here! (June 1-November 30) 

A hurricane can have potentially long lasting and devastating effects if you are caught unprepared.  It is not difficult to take steps before a hurricane hits to protect you and your home, but dealing with the aftermath of a hurricane when you did not prepare can be a long painful process.  Don’t wait until a hurricane is on its way toward your home town; take the time now to secure the safety of you and your family so you are not caught off-guard by a hurricane this season.  In South Carolina, the South Carolina Emergency Management Division is a great place to start to prepare for a disaster.

Steps to take before a hurricane hits (FEMA):

  1. Secure your home with permanent storm shutters or plywood.
  2. Make sure your roof is securely fastened to the frame structure of your home.
  3. Trim trees and shrubs.
  4. Clean out rain gutters and downspouts.
  5. If you have a boat, secure it.
  6. Build or determine which room in your house is the most secure in case of an emergency.
  7. Make copies of your personal records including Social Security Card, Birth Certificate, Passport, etc.  Give the copies to relatives in another state or keep them stored electronically where they can be accessed from anywhere.

How to get help after a hurricane hits (National Disaster Legal Aid):

  1. A list of local organizations that can help can be found at www.lawhelp.org
  2. If you lose your ID, passport, Social Security card, or other important documents you can find out how to replace them at www.uslegalforms.com/life-documents.htm
  3. Sometimes homes are destroyed or inaccessible in the wake of a hurricane and families are not able to return home.  The US Department of Housing and Urban Development Office of Public and Indian Housing and FEMA have programs that provide temporary housing.
  4. Families that are displaced due to hurricane might have problems finding employment.  The Disaster Unemployment Assistance Program gives assistance through unemployment benefits.  You cannot be eligible for these benefits if you already receive unemployment.  Visit their website for eligibility requirements.
  5. If you are displaced because of a hurricane then your children will need to find a temporary school to meet their education needs.  www.serve.org/nche/downloads/dis_hb/parents.pdf.
  6. Disaster food stamps assistance is available in the wake of a hurricane.
  7. Legal aid attorneys can help with landlord/tenant issues, contractor disputes, insurance issues and more.
  8. Other websites that can help in disaster preparedness:
    1. www.redcross.org
    2. www.abanet.org/disaster
    3. www.nilc.org/disaster_assistance/index.htm

-Allie

Staying Informed on Domestic Violence in SC

Domestic Violence—SOVA

Because domestic violence is such a huge problem in South Carolina, I want to continue to highlight agencies that help victims of domestic violence.  SOVA is South Carolina’s State Office of Victim Assistance.  It provides help with some crime related costs of domestic violence.  Visit their website to see eligibility criteria, forms for assistance and how the process works. (en Español) SOVA also provides information on victims’ rights, victims’ laws as well as a list of Judicial Circuit Solicitors that work on these cases.

Upcoming Event—The SC Victim Assistance Academy http://www.scvaa.sc.gov/

May 31, 2009-June5

There is still space available, but the conference is next week so sign up soon!  The purpose of the conference is to provide current information to victim service providers.  The conference will give you insight into all of the services that South Carolina offers to victims of domestic violence.

-Allie

PS – Other Upcoming Events are also listed!

Lawyers Stepping Up to Help Families Keep Their Homes

You may have noticed that a couple of recent posts below reference the home foreclosure crisis.  With the growing number of foreclosures in South Carolina and across the United States it is no wonder the housing market is such a hot topic. 

One of the links referenced below is a story from NPR: Lawyers Make Pro Bono Leap into Foreclosures.  It is the story of a man named Mirkab.  Mirkab is a hard working man who ended up with two homes because just as his family purchased a new home and attempted to sell their old home, the market began to crash and they were unable to sell their second home.  Like many other hardworking Americans, Mirkab is trying as hard as he can to keep his finances in good standing, but battling with the mortgage lenders on his own was getting him nowhere.  The story highlights the generosity of lawyers who have responded to the mortgage crisis by doing pro bono work for clients like Mirkab.  With so many families in the same position as Mirkab’s family, we need even more lawyers to step up and take these cases.

According to the National League of Cities 1 in every 374 housing units were part of a foreclosure filing in April 2009.  Due to this insurmountable number, pro bono lawyers willing to tackle the mortgage crisis are desperately needed.  For attorneys who do not specialize in this area of law the learning curve is steep, so a number of organizations across the country are finding ways to make it easier for attorneys to step up and take on these cases.   At probono.net there are resources for attorneys interested in these pro bono cases including templates for legal documents and links to state specific resources.  The Pro Bono Institute reports that legal service programs are typically the only access to the legal system that the poor and those of modest means have.  Foreclosure cases are swamping their work load and pro bono help is needed to share the responsibility.

The Center for Responsible Lending created the Institute for Foreclosure Legal Assistance that awards grants to non-profits and legal aid offices that with adequate resources can help those suffering from the housing crisis.  The grants range from 250,000 to 300,000 and are dispersed over a 3 year period.

The housing crisis hits close to home for many South Carolinians.  The Post and Courier in Charleston, SC ran an article in February telling how Family Services, Inc. was awarded $1.7 million from the National Foreclosure Mitigation Council.  Recipients of the monies included Appleseed, South Carolina Legal Services and Charleston Pro Bono Services.  These programs and this type of funding certainly help to put a dent in the aid needed, but there is much more required if individuals are going to get the legal help they need.

As Robin posted below, the South Carolina Supreme Court lifted the TRO on foreclosures as of Friday.  The Order lifting the TRO  lays out specific steps that must be followed and items that must be included within the court documents to determine whether an individual mortgage qualifies for President Obama’s Home Affordable Modification Program.  The need for attorneys who are knowledgeable about the recent legislation and court orders dealing with the mortgage crisis as well as South Carolina Foreclosure law to take on these pro bono cases is great.  Thank you for all of those working so hard to work within the legal system to find solutions for those struggling with a home foreclosure.

-Allie

Domestic Violence—Access to Legal Assistance

            Robin gave me some of the information she received at the recent Equal Justice Conference in Orlando.  A handout from the ABA Commission on Domestic Violence immediately stood out to me.  They are creating a National Domestic Violence Pro Bono Legal Service Provider Directory.  This directory will increase the number of pro bono attorney’s working with victims of domestic violence.  The directory will be available this summer on their website ProBono.Net.  Through programs in the directory the Commission will use, train and mentor volunteer lawyers.  The directory will make access to the legal process easier for victims of domestic violence.

            Domestic violence is an enormous problem in South Carolina.  According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 35,894 people were victims of domestic violence.  Domestic violence resulted in 28% of the murders in South Carolina in 2006.   The South Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault reports that South Carolina ranks 2nd in the nation for the number of women killed by men. 

            If you are an attorney interested in helping victims of domestic violence visit www.abanet.org/domviol to see how you can help.  You can also receive CLE credit by watching a Webinar series on Domestic violence But hurry, the Webinar ends May 27th!

-Allie

Initial Thoughts

I am excited to spend my summer with SC Access to Justice! I spent the last two days orienting myself to what SC Access to Justice is commissioned to do and the issues are currently before us. There is so much going on and I am eager to get my feet wet exploring topics including Rule 608, bundling v. unbundling services, encouraging lawyers to use plain language when communicating with the public and exploring ways to work with the growing number of self-represented litigants.

– Allie