By Kathryn M. Battuello and Harry H. Schneider, Jr.
Last month, in the King County Bar Foundation Board (KCBF) president's annual Bar Bulletin column, we were reminded of the bar's inspiring history of community service focused on securing equal and effective access to justice for all.
Harry described the King County Bar Association's roots, which date back to February 1886 when a handful of Seattle attorneys successfully challenged mob politics to prevent the forcible eviction of Seattle's Chinese immigrant workers. Their efforts set the stage for what is today the largest network of pro bono legal services programs in the state.
In addition, KCBA oversees a series of diversity programs designed to assure that our profession understands and mirrors the rich diversity within the community it serves. Working in tandem, our pro bono and diversity programs remove barriers to effective representation in legal matters involving access to adequate housing, healthcare, income and family safety.
The bar's ability to sustain its demonstrated commitment to equal and effective access to justice depends upon your support. Last month, you responded in record numbers to KCBF's annual fundraiser, the Breakfast with Champions. Annual gifts at the Breakfast play a substantial role in the annual operating budget for our pro bono programs, our diversity initiatives and our minority law student scholarships and we thank you for your annual gifts.
This month, we are calling on your support for a different and equally important fundraising effort: the 125th Anniversary Endowment Campaign. The Campaign's mission is to secure equal and effective access to justice for future generations.
Launched during KCBA's 125th anniversary year, the initial silent phase of the Campaign has raised more than $800,000 from KCBA and KCBF leadership. We also have the support of several major donors who share the bar's access to justice commitment. As Campaign co-chairs, we are delighted to launch the public phase of this critically important community effort to secure a stable future for the bar's pro bono and diversity programs.
The Case for an Endowment Fund
The King County Bar Foundation Board's decision to launch the 125th Anniversary Endowment Campaign was motivated by our desire to honor the bar's community service history. Even more important, however, was the realization that traditional funding sources could not be expected to sustain our core pro bono and diversity programs.
For more than 28 years, the civil legal aid safety net relied on IOLTA dollars to sustain operations. In 2007, IOLTA generated more than $9 million for civil legal aid and pro bono programs across the state. Back then, the housing market was seeing double-digit annual growth, unemployment was under 5 percent and the banking industry was solid. IOLTA funding was matched by generous support from the business community, the legal sector, the Legislature and foundations.
By the end of 2008 everything had changed as the effects of the recession took hold. The housing bubble had popped, the banking industry was unstable, unemployment was soaring above 10 percent and IOLTA dollars had all but dried up as interest rates plunged. Declining sources of funding were matched by rapidly increasing demand for pro bono services as foreclosures, bankruptcies, homelessness, domestic violence and other adversities soared, having a particularly disparate impact on women, children and seniors.
The access to justice safety net was in peril and we turned to you, our membership, to fill the funding gap. You responded with generous support in response to requests from the myriad organizations that share responsibility for funding civil legal aid and promoting diversity.
Today, our local economy appears to be improving. This bright spot does not detract from the KCBF Board's conclusion that continued reliance on historical approaches for financing would be irresponsible. At 20 percent of 2007 levels, IOLTA dollars remain inadequate, and it is unreasonable to expect the legal sector to fill the increasing gap between available services and community need on an ongoing basis. A secure future requires an endowment fund dedicated to sustaining operations through periods of economic turbulence.
With these factors in mind, the KCBF Board set the endowment campaign goal at $1 million. The 125th Anniversary Endowment Fund presents an asset-building opportunity financed by special, one-time gifts. The principal is restricted, with the interest generated providing a permanent source of income for special and often urgent program needs. If we reach our campaign goal, the interest generated by the endowment fund will provide stable funding to support our safety net and promote diversity across the bench and our bar.
How You Can Help
You can help us reach our campaign goal by making a one-time contribution to the KCBF 125th Anniversary Endowment Campaign in an amount that makes sense to you. You may make an outright gift of cash or you may pledge a gift to be fulfilled over a three-year period. In determining that amount, we encourage you reflect on the sacrifices our founders made in 1886 when they challenged mob politics to prevent injustice. If each of us stretches just a bit, we can bridge the gap to $1 million.
To make your contribution, go to www.kcbf.org/endowment. There you will find additional information on contribution options, along with information about the lasting impact your investment can make. You can also reach out to Joel Feldman, KCBF development manager, who is happy to answer questions or help you find a way to make an impactful gift. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 206-267-7005.
Finally, do not hesitate to contact us with questions: Kathryn M. Battuello, email@example.com or Harry H. Schneider, Jr., firstname.lastname@example.org. As Campaign co-chairs it is our honor and our responsibility to see this Campaign reach and hopefully exceed its goal. Together we will secure a future for the important community work that, more than 125 years ago, launched KCBA.
To those who have given and to those who are about to join our team of supporters, thank you for your consideration and generosity.