BUILDING NETWORK FUNDRAISING AND NONPROFIT BOARD CAPACITY

National Justice For Our Neighbors (NJFON) supports a hospitality ministry that welcomes immigrants by providing affordable, high-quality legal services, advocating for immigrant rights, and offering education to communities.  NJFON oversees the Justice For Our Neighbors (JFON) network, which is a national alliance of 15 independently operated sites that run approximately 45 legal clinics staffed by over 20 immigration attorneys and hundreds of volunteers.  Central to NJFON’s work is strengthening the JFON network so that clients are better served, JFON sites can continue to operate independently, and volunteers can work effectively.  

What sets the JFON network apart from other immigration legal service providers is its volunteer driven model whereby hundreds of community members across the United States donate their time to demonstrate what it means to be a good neighbor to newcomers.  Volunteers are the backbone of legal clinics where they perform essential duties from scheduling appointments to conducting intake interviews.  Another distinguishing factor is a commitment to hospitality where immigrants are warmly welcomed into a caring environment and each person is treated with dignity regardless of his/her background or immigration status.  Since the formation of the JFON network in January 2013, approximately 5,000 low-income immigrants throughout the United States have received the legal support needed to become legal residents in addition to being productive and engaged members of their communities.

Following a brief assignment in 2013, which primarily involved developing a strategy to support NJFON to diversify its sources of funding and reach ambitious funding targets over the next three years, Shifting Patterns’ Chief Change Architect was subsequently asked to lead the execution of this strategy.  By the end of 2014 NJFON had exceeded its annual funding target, where the amount of funds raised from individual and ecumenical donors more than doubled the amount raised during the previous year.  Progress has also been made in diversifying funding sources as NJFON received its first grant from a private foundation for general operating support.  

An important part of this assignment has been strengthening the capacity of network members to meet their own funding goals.  Over a period of several months a multi-pronged approach has been used to build the skills of network fundraisers that included in person and online trainings on topics such as strategic fundraising, prospect research, proposal writing, and engaging board members in fundraising; one-on-one consultations with network members to offer guidance and support on a variety of fundraising issues; and developing a robust online portal of fundraising resources, tools, and templates.  A survey administered to JFON fundraisers in early 2015 revealed that most network members were satisfied with the fundraising support being provided to the network and an interest in seeing the same types of assistance continued.  Some sites also reported meeting or exceeding their 2014 funding goals.  

A fundraising consultation with the JFON site in New York led to a request for Shifting Patterns’ Chief Change Architect to facilitate a board retreat in January 2015. During this one-day retreat, board members reviewed the fundamental roles and responsibilities of board governance, developed strategic goals to guide their work over the next few years, and drafted an action plan to begin working toward the achievement of these goals.  At the end of the workshop, the site director and board chair were so impressed by the amount of work accomplished in such a short period of time that they invited Kimberley to facilitate their next annual retreat.

Learn how NJFON strengthens a legal immigration network at: http://www.njfon.org

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