From the September 2010 CBF Newsletter
Doing Good Well
Lawyer Denis Pierce puts his money where his mouth is and as a result, increases access to justice for those in need. A partner at Pierce and Associates, he, along with his family, founded the Pierce Family Foundation. While many individuals in our legal community give generously in support of our community’s pro bono and legal aid organizations, Denis is one of a more select group who have found a way to take their giving to the next level. Through the commitments of his law firm and the work of his family foundation, Denis has been making generous contributions to law-related charities in a way that transcends giving back.
“Our perspective was actually shaped by my wife Martha’s firsthand experience running a nonprofit, and the daily struggles she faced simply trying to keep their IT and marketing needs at bay. This enlightened our understanding that organizations needed better tools and greater access to specialists in order to put their donors’ money to the best use.”
- Denis Pierce, Pierce and Associates
Expanding his focus on strategic giving, Denis is also dedicating the hours and resources necessary to ensure that once the money is donated, it will have the most significant impact in the lives of the people he is trying to help. “Like everyone, I want to support organizations that I care about, and that I know are making a real difference for people in need,” Denis notes. “However, when I have an opportunity to use my time and money to really help these organizations build their capacity and more effectively address critical needs in our community, that becomes an even more compelling and satisfying experience.” Denis focuses his philanthropic investments on helping charities leverage additional support, inspiring others to give, and expanding the traditional donor/recipient relationship by creating real working partnerships with the charitable organizations supported by his family foundation.
ADDRESSING THE MORTGAGE FORECLOSURE CRISIS
In January, Denis and his colleagues at Pierce and Associates stepped up to address a critical need in our community. Given that the firm handles mortgage-related legal issues, it made sense to Denis and his partners that they would make their support of housing related charities a priority. A prime example of that commitment was the gift they made to the CBF in partnership with Attorneys’ Title Guaranty Fund (ATG) and Codilis & Associates to support several pro bono and legal aid organizations that are working with the courts to help the growing number of people facing foreclosure. This joint contribution totaling $100,000 made it possible for the CBF to award special $25,000 grants to each of the four principal organizations working with the courts on the foreclosure issue: the Center for Conflict Resolution, the Chicago Legal Clinic, Chicago Volunteer Legal Services (CVLS) and the Legal Assistance Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago (LAF). "Helping to ensure that people have access to affordable housing is one of the core values and goals of Pierce & Associates and the Pierce Family Foundation" said Denis. "Providing funding to the CBF and legal assistance agencies is one significant way to help achieve this goal as well as helping to provide necessary legal representation to those in need.”
The special CBF grants made possible by the gift from ATG, Pierce and Associates and Codilis and Associates are part of a major CBF commitment to working with the courts, several of our grantee organizations, and other stakeholders to address the mortgage foreclosure crisis. The centerpiece of these efforts is the Circuit Court’s new Mortgage Foreclosure Mediation Program, which was launched in April to help Cook County homeowners who have mortgages in foreclosure. The program is designed to help homeowners explore options to either stay in their homes, or negotiate a respectable exit. The CBF is working with the Circuit Court on the management of the legal assistance and mediation services needed for the program. With funding from the County, three CBF grantee organizations are providing services for this part of the Circuit Court’s program—the Chicago Legal Clinic, CVLS and the Center for Conflict Resolution. LAF is also providing training and support.
Denis also has started working with the CBF to identify additional opportunities for lawyers practicing in the areas of mortgage foreclosure and related legal issues to support the CBF and the pro bono and legal aid organizations serving people directly affected by foreclosures. “Denis approached us and offered to help keep the conversation moving forward,” said CBF executive director Bob Glaves. Denis is confident that by coming together, lawyers practicing in this area can find a way to strategically leverage their collective resources to give back to the larger community.
GOING BEYOND THE DOLLARS
Taking their giving to the next level, Denis and his family have developed a unique program at the Pierce Family Foundation. Unlike some conditions placed on grantees by their funders, the strings attached to an offer of financial support from the Pierce Family Foundation literally enable the charities to expand their reach and significantly enhance their ability to impact more lives. Once an organization becomes a core grantee, it is eligible to receive, at no cost, a host of direct services provided by an on-call team of nonprofit support specialists.
From marketing and development to technology to management support, the foundation provides critical human resources that their grantees otherwise would not have access to. “Our perspective was actually shaped by my wife Martha’s firsthand experience running a nonprofit, and the daily struggles she faced simply trying to keep their IT and marketing needs at bay. This enlightened our understanding that organizations needed better tools and greater access to specialists in order to put their donors’ money to the best use.” The Pierce Family Foundation helps organizations increase their effectiveness by providing support that focuses on operational needs and organizational development, offering grants and technical assistance for technology, strategic planning, nonprofit operations, communications, board development and other areas that contribute to organizational stability and sustainability. (More information is available on the Pierce Family Foundation website.)
Through his firm and his family foundation, Denis has found a way to harness the power of his philanthropy in a way that improves access to justice and truly strengthens our community. His commitment to leveraging the impact of his giving by using his resources and relationships is having a transformational impact on the organizations he is supporting, and in turn, in the lives of the people they are serving. Denis sets a great example for all lawyers.
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