The Help That We Needed

September 17, 2012

pro bono partnership logo.

Introduction by Wendy Liscow
Program Officer, Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation

The crisp, cool air always triggers two cravings for me: apples and learning. I doubt the psychology behind these hankerings needs much interpretation. I satisfied my first September ritual this weekend when I filled my shopping bag with freshly picked gala apples from my local farmers market. Introducing the Dodge Foundation’s 2012-2013 Board Leadership Training Series will satsify the latter.

Our new Board Training series kicks off on October 6th with the newly-designed foundational workshop Getting Started: Lifecycles, Assessment and Building a Culture for Effective Change led by former Dodge President and CEO David Grant.  Many past participants have said that it sparks a paradigm shift that then sets the stage for the entire Board training series and allows for lasting change to occur in the organization.  We hope your organization brings a staff/board team to the series.  We guarantee you won’t regret the commitment.

The Dodge Foundation also funds the Nonprofit Finance Fund, New Jersey Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts, and the Pro Bono Partnership to bring their valuable services to our grantees year-round.

This month’s technical assistance blog posting is from the Pro Bono Partnership, in Parsippany, NJ.  The Partnership provides business and transactional legal services to nonprofits serving the disadvantaged and enhancing the quality of life in neighborhoods in New Jersey, Connecticut, and New York.  Each year the Partnership mobilizes and supports hundreds of lawyers from leading corporations and law firms who volunteer their legal expertise on behalf of nonprofits, enabling them to more effectively feed the hungry, house the homeless, promote the arts, protect the environment, and provide essential programs to children, the elderly, immigrants, the disabled, and the unemployed.

The Partnership asked one of its clients, the New Jersey Audubon Society, in Bernardsville, NJ, to share its experience with working with some of the volunteer lawyers that the Partnership arranges to help nonprofits with their legal needs:

The Help That We Needed

By Joyce Fajnor,
Executive Assistant & Director of Human Resources, New Jersey Audubon Society
Christine Michelle Duffy,
Senior Staff Attorney, Pro Bono Partnership

The New Jersey Audubon Society is a privately supported, nonprofit, statewide membership organization. Founded in 1897, and one of the oldest independent Audubon societies, New Jersey Audubon fosters environmental awareness and a conservation ethic among New Jersey’s citizens; protects New Jersey’s birds, mammals, other animals, and plants, especially endangered and threatened species; and promotes preservation of New Jersey’s valuable natural habitats.

The Pro Bono Partnership has provided legal guidance for our organization for several years now. Their volunteer lawyers have all been extremely knowledgeable and responsive to our needs. As a nonprofit, it would have been extremely difficult—if not impossible—to afford the legal guidance we needed to move forward on new initiatives and to remain compliant with many newly approved regulations.

Here are a few examples of the legal assistance we have received:

Human Resources

Stephen Greene, Vice President & General Counsel of G & W Laboratories, assisted New Jersey Audubon with several personnel policies, helping the organization to begin centralizing its Human Resources function. With his help, we developed and standardized a performance appraisals process, which involved not only the drafting of new forms and procedures but also the creation of a training presentation that was very useful during roll out. As a result, we initiated standardized annual performance appraisals for 100% of our employees. Stephen also helped us with a number of policies, including those related to family and medical leaves and employee /volunteer criminal background checks. He definitely helped get the New Jersey Audubon HR department started.

Public Relations for S.A.V.E.

Joshua Zucker, who at the time was General Counsel for Regent Book Co., worked with us to develop a legally compliant public relations program with a marketing/communications firm to help us market our S.A.V.E.™ program.  The S.A.V.E.™ brand, which stands for Support Agricultural Viability and the Environment, promotes the production of agricultural products that are economically and ecologically sustainable. The projects are funded through a Conservation Incentive Grant from the Natural Resources Conservation Service of the USDA.  Josh helped New Jersey Audubon develop a new statewide initiative that won the Governor’s Excellence Award.

Leasehold Transactions

Michael Buxbaum, a partner with the Lowenstein Sandler law firm, has been instrumental in helping New Jersey Audubon structure a complex leasehold transaction that is critical to our organization, from both business and financial standpoints. His expertise and guidance has helped us understand and navigate the legal issues involved.

Employee Handbook

Prashanth “PJ” Jayachandran and Amanda Betman, lawyers with the Morgan, Lewis & Bockius law firm, have been helping us with revising our Employee Handbook.  Amanda and PJ have carefully reviewed each item in our handbook to make sure that it is in order.  Completion of this project will be a huge help to our organization, helping to remind staff what our policies are and to make sure that we are compliant with the latest regulations.

We are grateful to the Pro Bono Partnership for its support in providing us with high quality legal services, through its staff attorneys and volunteer lawyers. Amanda, Josh, Michael, PJ, and Stephen have all worked diligently and professionally to provide us with exceptional legal services at no cost, which has allowed us to dedicate our limited financial resources to providing direct services to the community and the betterment of New Jersey’s environment. They have been wonderful to work with and very responsive. Thank you to each of them and the Partnership.