The Indianapolis Legal Aid Society is again starting its biggest fundraiser of the year with the annual holiday dollar campaign.
About 4,000 letters have been sent to donors, lapsed donors and potential donors asking for their financial support for the nonprofit. Enclosed is a cartoon $150 bill drawn by Indianapolis Star cartoonist and ILAS supporter Gary Varvel.
The agency, which has faced a severe cut in support from its principal funder the United Way of Central, is hoping to raise at least $150,000. In the past, ILAS received 50 percent of its annual budget from United Way but a change in United Way’s policy slashed the yearly appropriate to the legal aid organization to about $190,000 which equal to nearly 20 percent of ILAS’s budget.
ILAS has been able to fill in some of the funding gap with a dinner and comedy roast in October. This year, the nonprofit’s roast of Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett raised $94,000, a drop from the $140,000 garnered last year from a roast of Indianapolis criminal defense attorney Jim Voyles.
Despite the successful dinner event, donations from the holiday campaign are still very much needed.
“This money is critical. This is directly supporting the attorneys’ ability to help clients,” Floreancig said, noting 90 percent of the donations will go toward direct client representation.
Having strong donor support is also important when the agency applies for grants. Recently, the Lilly Endowment provided nearly $1 million to ILAS and Child Advocates to launch a new program designed to take children from the CHINS process and put them in a stable home. Granting organizations like to see nonprofits have strong, healthy support.
Each year, ILAS receives about 11,000 calls from people seeking legal assistance. The agency has had its attorneys meet with 5,544 individuals this year which, Floreancig noted, is down from the 7,000 helped annually in the past. However, he said the types of cases coming in the door have become “incredibly complex,” requiring attorneys to tackle multiple issues and needing more time to resolve.
Attorneys can count their donations to ILAS under the mandatory pro bono reporting rule.