As elder law and special needs planning attorneys, many of us are involved in what might be considered “extracurricular” work activities – i.e., all those things we do that flow directly from the profession we have chosen.
We serve on boards. We volunteer for nonprofits and organizations. We advocate for causes that are important to us. We coordinate with other groups and professionals who help serve our clients. We identify gaps in the systems we work with, and daydream about getting them fixed.
We wish we had more professionals on board to help us out. We wish we had a little bit more knowledge on how to help. We wish there were more resources to get these things done.
Many of us go beyond mere wishing and put in substantial work toward these goals. However, so many of these goals could benefit from some additional funding.
We Have Funds for That
As it happens, the leadership of the Elder Law and Special Needs Section has many of the same goals you do. And, we have funds on hand to further those goals.
We just need direction from our membership on where to direct those funds. You, as a member of our ELSN community, have the ability to ask for some of those funds in furtherance of the things that matter to you, your practice, and the elder law and special needs community at large.
Where Are These Funds From?
A bit of context on where this is all coming from: the Elder Law and Special Needs Section Board has a carryforward of funds from one budget to the next. Those funds have built up over time in years where our revenues exceeded our budgeted expenses.
That means our section is financially healthy, and that’s a good thing. But, instead of simply squirreling those funds away indefinitely, the board wishes to memorialize the purpose of such funds and give direction for their use.
The board recommends preserving a minimum carryforward of $15,000. This is to ensure that the section has funds, if needed, in the case of an emergency or for unforeseen circumstances.
Beyond that, the board intends to spend some of the funds each year to further the goals of our section, its members, and the public. The ELSN section is dedicated to applying its excess funds to qualified projects that are consistent with the section’s goals and objectives.
What Projects Qualify?
The types of matters that the board should spend the carryforward funds on include, but are not limited to:
providing education, such as pamphlets, books, education materials, videos, or other methods to educate on elder law and special needs topics, to the members, the public, public officials, and courts. This may also include paying for national speakers to come to Wisconsin for elder law and special needs education;
scholarships to encourage practice in the field of elder law and special needs for public iterest lawyers, young lawyers, and solo practitioners, and to match scholarships offered by others such as the State Bar of Wisconsin or NAELA;
recruiting attorneys to practice in the field of elder law and special needs, which might include sponsoring events;
sponsoring events and media to promote elder law and special needs attorneys or issues that we care about. This might include State Bar of Wisconsin events, speakers, or publications;
donations or grants to support nonprofit public interest firms or agencies who serve the elderly and those with disabilities.
increasing visibility of members, such as by supporting their events or organizations that are consistent with Elder Law and Special Needs Section priorities; and
advocacy, both legislative and case-related, before public officials consistent with the State Bar policies, and with necessary section board approval, such as amicus briefs, lobbying, etc.
The ELSN board should consider spending at least 5% of the carryforward funds each year to ensure that we are serving our members with the funds, keeping in mind the desire to maintain dues at a reasonable amount for members and to maintain a minimum as stated above.
How to Request Funds
If you have a proposal that you believe fits the above guidelines, our general carryforward policy indicates they should be submitted to the section chair (currently
Heather Wilson) no later than the end of the calendar year.
This timeline then allows proposals to be considered by the Carryforward Subcommittee as well as the section board in January, with the goal of disbursing funds that same fiscal year.
Also, requests for funds can be submitted to the chair at any other time during the year, in which case the timing of approvals will depend on the timeframe of upcoming board meetings and the budgeting process at the time the request is made.
Therefore, if you have a project or program that you wish to request funds for this year, the please submit the request as soon as possible. You do not need to wait until later in the year. The board meets frequently throughout each calendar year and can consider proposals on a rolling basis.
The proposal should include:
the amount of money requested;
what the money will be used for; and
how it fits within the guidelines set forth above.
If your project, cause, or need could be supported with an influx of funds, on behalf of the ELSN board, we strongly encourage you to submit a proposal.
For reference, members of the Carryforward Subcommittee are:
This article was originally published on the State Bar of Wisconsin’s
Elder Law and Special Needs Blog. Visit the State Bar
sections or the
Elder Law and Special Needs Section webpages to learn more about the benefits of section membership.