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Pro Bono Center’s Opportunities for Growth

Feedback from the strategic assessment interviews, surveys, and focus groups revealed areas where the Pro Bono Center could potentially grow.

Champion innovative pro bono leadership in the community.

Participants across almost all stakeholders suggested that the Pro Bono Center utilize its strong position in the legal community to leverage innovative pro bono leadership. Some of the suggestions included: taking on a stronger leadership role in groundbreaking initiatives that address the legal needs in the community; promoting the participation of senior lawyers, solo/small firm practitioners, and in-house corporate counsel in pro bono legal work, who were noted as being underutilized; and taking on a stronger coordination role among the legal services providers to help pool resources.

Increase awareness in the community about the depth and breadth of the Pro Bono Center’s services.

Although a significant number of survey respondents indicated that they were aware of the Pro Bono Center prior to taking the survey, more qualitative discussions during the focus groups and interviews overwhelmingly indicated that the awareness is often limited to only a part of the Pro Bono Center’s overall services and volunteer resources. It was suggested that the Center better advertise the breadth and depth of its offerings and more clearly brand its clinics and resource centers that take place at other nonprofits or the courthouse.

Redefine the role and relationship between the CED Project and the larger Pro Bono Center services, including the CED Project’s supporting advisory structures.

Both law firm volunteers and CED Project partners noted that the relationship between the CED Project and Pro Bono Center can be confusing, and that the public may not understand how the CED Project’s work is part of the mission of the Pro Bono Center. Similarly, members of the Pro Bono Committee and CED Advisory Committee were unaware of how the two committees were structurally related to one another. It was suggested that the CED Project and CED Advisory Committee be better integrated with the Pro Bono Center and Pro Bono Committee in order to provide a more complete picture of the services offered. This would also provide an opportunity for reducing duplication and inefficiencies, leveraging resources between the two parts of the organization, and promoting a single Pro Bono Center brand.

Ensure long-term financial stability.

Participants across almost all stakeholders highlighted challenges the Pro Bono Center may face in its long-term financial sustainability. These included: the lack of a formal structure to regularly assist in fundraising strategies, as the Pro Bono Center’s Board of Directors, which also serves as the D.C. Bar’s Board of Governors, does not operate as a traditional nonprofit board with fundraising responsibilities; and a prevailing assumption that the Pro Bono Center is funded by membership dues from the D.C. Bar. (Sixty percent of survey respondents were not aware that the Pro Bono Center was an independent, nonprofit legal services organization that does not receive member dues from the D.C. Bar to fund its operations.) It was suggested that the Pro Bono Center address these challenges in order to ensure long-term financial sustainability. Members of both the CED Committee and Pro Bono Committee also expressed interest in regularly assisting in fundraising efforts.

Increase the use of technology to support client and volunteer services.

Finally, technology was highlighted as a tool that could be further utilized to support the mission of the organization. Suggestions included utilizing social media to recruit new volunteers and increase the visibility of the Pro Bono Center, creating more online tools and resources to support current volunteers, and helping to facilitate further pro se legal assistance. and were described as very helpful and informative but underutilized. While over 80 percent of survey respondents who had used the websites thought that they were useful for volunteers, only 51 percent and 40 percent, respectively, of the total respondents had utilized the resources.