National Conference of Bar Foundations

Our Mission

Mission & Strategic Goals

The National Conference of Bar Foundations (NCBF) advances the work of all types of bar foundations by:

(a) Promoting the integral role of bar foundations in advancing law-related philanthropy to the organized bar, the larger legal community, and the philanthropic community; and

(b) Serving as a clearinghouse and resource to assist bar foundations in carrying out their charitable missions.

Governance Documents

NCBF Guiding Principles

By offering an effective means for the legal community to come together to engage in law related philanthropy, bar foundations strengthen the profession by providing lawyers the opportunity to give back in a way that is uniquely important and rewarding for them as lawyers.

Just as bar associations bring lawyers together to address issues that are common to the profession, bar foundations complement those efforts by giving the legal community an effective means to focus on charitable initiatives that lawyers are uniquely positioned to take a leadership role in addressing.

With appropriate regard for the corporate and tax laws governing the relationship, bar foundations should work in close partnership with their associated bar associations to improve the profession, the justice system and the community.
By coming together through NCBF and taking advantage of their collective strength, bar foundations of all sizes and sorts-along with other individuals and entities committed to NCBF's mission-can significantly enhance their ability to successfully carry out their own foundation missions while at the same time strengthening and growing the overall field of law related philanthropy through networking, educational programming, sharing resources and best practices, and building broader awareness and support in the legal community.

NCBF Strategic Directions

I. Build the capacity of all types of bar foundations

  • Provide education, training and support to member foundations
  • Increase the fundraising capacity of bar foundations
  • Provide value-added services (such as "The Complete Guide to Bar Foundations") and resources to member foundations
  • Function as clearinghouse for issues relevant to bar foundations

II. Build community among bar foundations to promote best practices and advance common goals

  1. Communicate the collective impact of what bar foundations do for the community
  2. Focus on the common ground that exists among bar foundations of all different sizes and sorts
  • Provide the following services, among others, to facilitate this goal:
    - Programming and networking opportunities at ABA meetings
    - Keep the surveys alive
    - The NCBF listserv
    - Periodic newsletters
    - Joint programs and initiatives with NABE, NCBP and NAIP

III. Strengthen partnerships between bar foundations and bar associations

  • Promote best practices for bar foundation and bar association collaboration and the positive benefits for both entities
  • Strengthen NCBF's partnerships with NABE and NCBP
  • Better integrate NCBF with other relevant ABA entities and programs e.g., Standing Committee on Bar Activities and Service, Bar Leader Institute, Bar Leader magazine and other ABA charitable entities, including the American Bar Foundation, the ABA Fund for Justice and Education and the American Bar Endowment
    Educate both bar associations and bar foundations about the legal parameters for the association/foundation relationship

IV. Facilitate other beneficial philanthropic partnerships for bar foundations

  • Strengthen the partnership between NCBF and NAIP
  • Increase the presence of bar foundations in the larger philanthropic community e.g., Council on Foundations, regional associations of grantmakers

V. Continue to strengthen NCBF's management and governance and increase member participation

  • Continue to improve NCBF's board governance
  • Subscribe to the Illinois Nonprofit Principles and Best Practices (see and strive to adopt the best practices pertinent to NCBF
  • Solidify staffing relationship with ABA Division for Bar Services
  • Continue to develop NCBF website as a member resource
  • Work to increase opportunities for member involvement

VI. Cultivate an ethic of giving among lawyers for law-related philanthropy

  • Develop messaging and communications tools to further the purpose of cultivating an ethic of giving among lawyers for law-related philanthropy
  • Promote charitable initiatives that lawyers are uniquely positioned to take a leadership role in addressing
    Common examples of law-related philanthropy include one or more of the following:
    Working to ensure equal access to justice
    Promoting pro bono work in the legal community
    Improving public understanding of the law and the justice system
    Improving the administration of the justice system
    Ensuring that the legal profession remains open to people from all walks of life
    Helping lawyers who are experiencing difficulties

NCBF Priorities

  • Reestablish the Membership Committee and utilize a survey tool to develop and implement a plan for membership retention and growth with a focus on increasing communications and involvement of NCBF volunteer leadership in addition to staff leadership
  • Through active recruitment and the newsletter, provide opportunities for NCBF membership to become involved in volunteer leadership by serving on committees
  • Establish a Communications Committee responsible for developing communications tools for use in membership development and sponsorship solicitation such as a case for support, talking points, a brochure, etc.
  • Identify and recruit NCBF corporate sponsors as a member resource
  • Complete part two of the membership survey being conducted by ALPS
  • Keep the Complete State of Bar Foundation surveys alive for use by NCBF members individually for their own strategic planning, fundraising efforts and other purposes to the membership by e-mailing it to presidents, past presidents, president-elects and executive directors
  • Evaluate and consider extending the ALPS teleconference workshop series/sponsorship swap to determine educational/training interest and value to NCBF staff and volunteers
  • Continue to develop the NCBF website as a member resource
  • Continue to develop the NCBF e-newsletters to communicate and keep members informed in-between meetings and to educate them about other resources such as regional associations and affinity groups
  • Continue to improve NCBF programming to be responsive to member feedback and continue to work with NABE, NAIP and IOLTA for joint programs of common interest at the midyear and annual meetings
  • Realize the limits of the human and financial resources of NCBF and consider using ALPS Foundation Services on an hourly as needed basis