Hurdles Your Oklahoma Bar Foundation Faces in 2014 and Beyond

by OBF President Dietmar K. Caudle

The Oklahoma Bar Foundation (OBF) is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) founded in 1946 by lawyer members of the Oklahoma Bar Association. The OBF mission is to provide annual support for the the promotion of justice, funding of critical legal services and to provide advancement and better understanding of the law for all Oklahomans. The OBF is the charitable arm of the Oklahoma Bar Association. The OBF’s offices are located on the second floor of the Oklahoma Bar Center. Over the years, the OBF has granted awards in excess of $10,000,000. At least 100,000 Oklahomans were affected by OBF grant awards in 2013 alone.

The OBF consists of a twenty-six member Board of Trustees. Twenty- one are trustees from around the state elected to three-year staggered terms. The five remaining Trustees are the immediate past president of the OBF, the OBA president, the OBA president-elect, the OBA executive director, and a representative of the Young Lawyers Division.

Your 2014 OBF Trustees represent all 77 counties across our great State. Their experience and energy will be severely tested to guide the OBF through a most difficult financial year. The past two years, specifically, reminded us that the anemic economy directly affects donations, which directly affects law-related services we are able to fund. The economic decline has resulted in deep cuts in IOLTA receipts and fewer Cy Pres awards. The OBF grant funding was cut back by more than $125,000 in 2012 and again in 2013.

The good news is that there is an answer and a positive response for this decline. The answer can be made very simple. There is a saying that “you cannot give until you are asked”. A proposed strategic plan will be re-implemented to reverse the recent disturbing trends:

  • We must increase the number of individual OBF Fellows (our OBA membership exceeds 17,000- and the current number of OBF fellows is 1,665).
  • We must upgrade the current giving level of Fellows where applicable. (620 paid Fellows are currently available for upgrade to Sustaining or Benefactor Fellows)
  • Increase the number of Community Fellows from organizations and groups (current members are the OBA Family Law Section and The Garrett Law Center of Tulsa).

The above stated goals should easily be ascertainable since it involves fellow practitioners. Our OBF product is marketable and every Lawyer’s pride is on the line. President Caudle asks you, “Is there a better way to promote our legal profession than to show our lawyers’ generosity which transforms lives for the better?”

The more difficult reimplementation of the proposed 2014 Strategic Plan assuring continued OBF revenue must come in the following areas:

IOLTA ACCOUNTS: Oklahoma was the first state in the Nation to implement mandatory IOLTA Accounts during 2004 after many years without change to national IOLTA programs. Interest rate banks pay is not regulated and is subject to change at any time. This revenue source is critical to your OBF and its endeavor to honor grant awards each year. Your Board of Trustees will attempt to enlist the assistance of the ABA IOLTA Commission, the OBA, Legal Aid and others to reverse this trend of shifting IOLTA interest rates payable on lawyers’ trust accounts. Your assistance with your bank rates is needed.

CY PRES AWARDS: The OBF must again become a major player in the enlistment of Cy Pres Awards and champion access to justice for all Oklahomans. The OBF message should be enhanced by virtue of our previous court grant fund awards and the good work being accomplished.

COMMUNITY FELLOWS: The OBF has made tremendous recent strides to get the new program going. Community Fellows can be IOLTA Banks, Businesses, Corporations, Law Firms, County Bar Associations, OBA Sections and Committees and other friends and supporters of justice. The OBA Family Law Section and The Garrett Law Center of Tulsa are the most recent Community Fellows at the Patron Level, the highest level of support.

STATEWIDE CHARITABLE FOUNDATIONS: Recruitment of other charitable foundations that will make the OBF their charitable choice of giving shall be pursued. All Oklahoma lawyers are encouraged to deliver our OBF Mission, “Lawyers Transforming Lives”.

THE FUTURE OF OBF COMMUNICATION: We are a video-addicted society. Two-thirds of us would prefer to receive information via a video as opposed to reading. YouTube averages four billion views per day – the message here is clear. The OBF must continue to use social media to broadcast its message. Our mission remains as it always had been, to be the charitable heart of the OBA and of all Oklahoma lawyers. In 2014, the OBF will initiate and present a video story which will allow lawyers and law firms, Fellows, our Community Fellows and the public to readily view how the OBF has and will continue to transform lives by the stories of its grantees. Peer to peer communication is a tried and true method that never fails and we encourage all lawyers to help by telling our story.

I submit that these strategies are not all new. Reimplementation, commitment and dedication are old school, but essential for our OBF to survive. We cannot receive, if we don’t ask.

In closing, it is important to recognize the 2014 Board of Trustees. These Lawyers dedicate their time, energy and talents to keep our OBF viable. The Executive Committee consists of Dietmar K. Caudle, President, Lawton; Jack L. Brown, President-Elect, Tulsa; Judge Millie E. Otey, Vice President, Tulsa; Kevin R. Donelson, Secretary/Treasurer, Oklahoma City and Susan B. Shields, Past President, Oklahoma City. Other members of the 2014 Boards of Trustees are: Steven L. Barghols, Oklahoma City; A. Gabriel Bass, Oklahoma City; Stephen D. Beam, Weatherford; Tanya A. Bryant, Oklahoma City; Brett D. Cable, McAlester; Jennifer M. Castillo, Oklahoma City; Guy P. Clark, Ponca City; Dean Valerie Couch, Oklahoma City; Renée DeMoss, Tulsa; Amber Peckio Garrett, Tulsa; Deanna Hartley Kelso, Ada; Brandon P. Long, Oklahoma City; G. Patrick O’Hara, Jr. Edmond; David A. Poarch, Jr., Norman; Briana J. Ross, Tulsa; Kara I. Smith, Oklahoma City; Donna L. Smith, Vinita; Alan Souter, Tulsa; Jeffrey D. Trevillion, Oklahoma City; Roy D. Tucker, Muskogee and John Morris Williams, Oklahoma City.

The OBF staff consists of Nancy Norsworthy, our 29 year tenured executive director, Jessi Hesami, executive assistant and Deb Holt, OBF and IOLTA administrative assistant.

OBF Staff Duties

OBF staff duties are multi-faceted with wide variety of responsibilities, which include:

  • Responsible for the daily operation of the foundation
  • Administers and maintains IOLTA membership and financial records
  • Works directly with IOLTA banks and the OBA membership
  • Maintains Fellow membership records and pledge payments, including the new Community Fellow program
  • Provides reports and support to the twenty-six member Board of Trustees and works directly with executive committee
  • Coordinates meetings and board and committee materials
  • Provides support to the board in fundraising efforts
  • Maintains expenditure and income records of the Foundation
  • Maintains investment and books of account
  • Compiles reports and works with auditors and other financial representatives
  • Coordinates grant applications, meetings, payments, grant reporting and follow up as well as help and support to grantee organizations throughout the year
  • Works with other nonprofit groups and outside organizations; represents OBF at various outside events
  • Responsible for OBF website updates and communication efforts
  • Provides help and support to the OBA membership wherever needed

Dietmar K. Caudle, President, Oklahoma Bar FoundationDietmar K. Caudle will lead the Oklahoma Bar Foundation in a most critical year for the third oldest state bar foundation in the Nation. Dietmar practices law as a sole practitioner in Lawton. His original staff has been assisting him since he first opened his law office in 1980. His practice has an emphasis on domestic relations, criminal and civil litigation. He is currently an Associate Editor of the Oklahoma Bar Journal, a longtime member of the Client Security Fund and served as the 2013 Oklahoma Bar Association Vice President. He was the Comanche County Bar President in 2004 and received the County Bar’s Professionalism Award in 2011. Dietmar has served on the OBA’s Professional Responsibility Tribune, the Professionalism Committee, and has chaired the Military Legal Assistance and Lawyer Referral Tasks Force. He is a Benefactor Fellow of the OBF and a member of the Oklahoma Fellows of the American Bar Foundation. Dietmar’s knowledge of nonprofit organizations and financial background has been enhanced by previous service to local community boards and coordination of fund raising campaigns, which will all serve to enrich his leadership role with the Oklahoma Bar Foundation as president during 2014.