OBF Grant Funding Crisis 2012

by President Shon Erwin

Oklahoma Bar Foundation grant funding comes from the IOLTA program, interest on endowments and other invested funds, the Fellows program and other generous charitable contributions. In more recent years cy pres and residual balance awards have played an important role in the OBF’s ability to maintain grant levels. Funding has steadily gone down since 2009 along with the declining economy. The 2012 OBF grant funding program is in crisis because income is down dramatically by almost 50% from this same time last year. Much of the 2012 revenue decline is attributed to unanticipated decreases in IOLTA receipts. Federal Fund target rates have not changed in many months and this large decrease was not expected by IOLTA programs across the nation. This dramatic situation is not likely to improve for at least another two or three years, provided that Federal rates improve.

What will the decline mean for organizations funded by OBF? The 2012 OBF grant cycle is currently underway with twenty some organizations making requests totaling more than $630,000. Your Bar Foundation is going to have to cut grant award amounts and possibly eliminate some organizations completely from the grant process. This means that many Oklahomans will go without vitally needed legal services. This means that law-related education programs in schools will go unfunded. This means that some women, children and vulnerable adults may not be safe.

What will the decline mean for you? Lawyers will be expected to take on more pro bono roles. This means more poor Oklahomans will be seeking help and many will not be able to find it. Another layer of the Foundation is enhancement of the legal profession, an endeavor that encompasses many shapes and forms, but without adequate grant funding this enhancement will be in jeopardy. Bad lawyer jokes will be on the rise.

The Oklahoma Bar Foundation is grateful for the support received from the lawyers and law firms each year and we look to you for your continued, new and added help during this time of crisis.