ILAS starts annual fundraiser amid growing need

For the first time in its history, the Indianapolis Legal Aid Society’s holiday dollar campaign is going virtual.

The fundraiser has become a tradition since it was started in the mid-1990s. For many years, ILAS mailed dollar bills to attorneys and friends of the legal profession, asking the recipients to return the bills with their own added contribution. The society switched in 2014 to sending a dollar drawn by nationally recognized cartoonist Gary Varvel.

This year, ILAS will not be mailing letters and dollars. The nonprofit be sending emails and enlisting team captains in law firms to encourage their colleagues to make a donation, according to John Floreancig, general counsel and CEO of ILAS.

The COVID-19 pandemic is forcing the change since lawyers, now working remotely because of the pandemic, will likely not be at their offices to receive the letters. But financial support is critical, Floreancig said, because the public health emergency and the resulting economic downturn have created even more need for legal aid.

While concerns have been growing over the potential for a wave of evictions when the mortarium from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention expires at the end of 2020, a majority of the clients coming to ILAS need help with family issues such as divorces and child custody matters. Floreancig expects the society will serve at least 5,000 clients in 2020 and possibly more in 2021.

“Next year is going to be tough,” Floreancig said. “We’re hoping for a big return this year” from the holiday campaign.

ILAS has boosted its fundraising efforts since the United Way of Central Indiana significantly decreased its support of the organization. However, two other big money-making events, the annual dinner roast and the continuing legal education seminar, were both canceled in 2020 because of the coronavirus.

The holiday dollar campaign typically brings in roughly $150,000 annually which goes directly to helping clients. This year, the Society is hoping to realize $200,000.

To bring in more contributions, ILAS is borrowing from the campaigns encouraging residents to support their local restaurants or their local small businesses. The holiday dollar campaign is reminding legal professionals in the Indianapolis area that ILAS helps their neighbors.

“We’re their local legal aid society,” Floreancig said.

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