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Women’s Bar Foundation of Massachusetts, Inc.

 27 School Street, Suite 500
 Boston, MA 02108
[P] (617) 973-6666
[F] (617) 973-6663
www.womensbar.org
wbf@womensbar.org
Rebecca Cohen
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INCORPORATED: 1994
 Printable Profile (Summary / Full)
EIN 04-3228055

LAST UPDATED: 08/02/2017
Organization DBA --
Former Names --
Organization received a competitive grant from the Boston Foundation in the past five years No

Summary

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Mission StatementMORE »

The Women’s Bar Foundation (WBF) is dedicated to ensuring access to justice for the most vulnerable residents of our great Commonwealth. We recruit, train, and mentor volunteer attorneys from the private bar to provide free legal assistance to low-income clients.  Through our pro bono projects we work to end the cycle of domestic abuse, prevent homelessness, provide counsel to incarcerated women, and prepare critical documents that help seniors manage their health and finances as they age.  


Mission Statement

The Women’s Bar Foundation (WBF) is dedicated to ensuring access to justice for the most vulnerable residents of our great Commonwealth. We recruit, train, and mentor volunteer attorneys from the private bar to provide free legal assistance to low-income clients.  Through our pro bono projects we work to end the cycle of domestic abuse, prevent homelessness, provide counsel to incarcerated women, and prepare critical documents that help seniors manage their health and finances as they age.  



FinancialsMORE »

Fiscal Year Jan 01, 2017 to Dec 31, 2017
Projected Income $394,000.00
Projected Expense $391,000.00

ProgramsMORE »

  • Elder Law Project
  • Family Law Project for Battered Women
  • Hampden County Housing Court Project
  • Women's Prison and Re-Entry Project

Revenue vs. Expense ($000s)

Expense Breakdown 2015 (%)

Expense Breakdown 2014 (%)

Expense Breakdown 2013 (%)

For more details regarding the organization's financial information, select the financial tab and review available comments.


Overview

Mission Statement

The Women’s Bar Foundation (WBF) is dedicated to ensuring access to justice for the most vulnerable residents of our great Commonwealth. We recruit, train, and mentor volunteer attorneys from the private bar to provide free legal assistance to low-income clients.  Through our pro bono projects we work to end the cycle of domestic abuse, prevent homelessness, provide counsel to incarcerated women, and prepare critical documents that help seniors manage their health and finances as they age.  



Background Statement

Established as a 501(c)(3) organization in 1993 by the Women’s Bar Association, the WBF’s founding mission is to establish an equitable legal system, to promote social and economic equity for women, and to meet the legal needs of women and their children through an array of pro bono services. To date, the WBF has served thousands of low-income survivors of domestic violence, homeless women, incarcerated women, and elderly women and men.
 
In 1995, the Family Law Project (FLP) won the R.O.S.E. Fund's Distinguished Service Award, and in 2004 it was also given the Public Service Award from the National Conference of Women's Bar Associations. In addition, in 2003 the WBF received a Supreme Judicial Court Adams Pro Bono Publico Award for distinguished service and outstanding commitment.
 
The WBF relies on hundreds of enthusiastic volunteers and generous individuals, foundations and corporations to help low-income women and children improve their lives.
 
 

Impact Statement

In 2016, the Women’s Bar Foundation responded to 2,000 calls for assistance from low-income women, families, and elders, in Massachusetts seeking free legal assistance on a variety of issues. Through a targeted group of pro bono projects we offer legal representation and advice to survivors of domestic violence, elders, incarcerated women, and tenants facing eviction.

We are the only legal services organization in Massachusetts that provides free legal assistance to individuals with incomes up to 250% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines. As such, we provide a critical gap service to low-income wage earners who often live on the margins of poverty—those who earn too much to qualify for free legal assistance elsewhere but not enough to hire an attorney from the private bar.

Our clients’ legal issues, left unaddressed, prevent them from leaving abusive relationships, threaten to drive them into poverty, homelessness, and joblessness, and deprive them of safety and security. By providing our clients with free legal counsel and advice, we empower them to take full advantage of the rights and protections available to them under the law. With the support of an attorney, our clients can tackle difficult legal issues in order to regain independence and personal autonomy and rebuild their lives.


Needs Statement

Volunteers: The WBF leverages volunteer attorneys from the private bar to deliver more than 5,000 hours of free legal assistance each year. Volunteer support allows us to maintain a lean staffing model, keeping organizational costs low, while serving a large number of clients. With 1.5 fulltime attorneys, we manage the caseload equivalent of four to five fulltime legal services attorneys. The Family Law Project for Battered Women (Family Law Project or FLP) relies on volunteer attorneys to represent clients on family law issues in the Probate Court. The Elder Law Project (ELP) recruits volunteer attorneys to prepare wills, power of attorney, health care proxies, and other end-of-life legal documents for elders. We accept volunteer attorneys at any stage in their career, from any field of law. Specialized family law or elder law experience is not necessary. The WBF trains and mentors all volunteer attorneys.

Funding: The WBF is funded largely through individual donations, corporate and law firm sponsorships, and private grants. The WBF does not receive public funding. Funding allows us to employ two attorneys who train and mentor our volunteer attorneys, screen clients and assign cases for representation, as well as maintain a caseload of 10-20 cases annually.

CEO Statement

Pro bono representation has never been more vital to a just society than it is today. The year 2016 was challenging for poor people, people of color, and women. With the threat of shrinking social services and the elimination of key civil rights, our clients—the majority of whom are low-income women of color—find themselves at heightened risk of violence, homelessness, health crises, and financial insecurity. In particular, immigrant survivors of domestic violence face new legal obstacles in light of changing immigration policies. In the face of these new policies, many of our immigrant clients are more afraid to utilize the judicial process or seek the help of law enforcement to gain protection from an abuser.


We are proud that in this challenging environment, we have served more than 2,000 individuals and logged more than 6,500 hours of pro bono representation. We are directing our resources to support those members of our community most at risk in the face of changing policies and practices including immigrant survivors of domestic violence. The expansion of our language translation services will enable us to offer increased support to immigrant clients. Additionally, our team is working closely with immigration law attorneys to provide coordinated, expert counsel to our clients.


Board Chair Statement

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Geographic Area Served

STATEWIDE
The WBF serves clients in the state of Massachusetts. The majority of clients live in the greater Boston area. 

Organization Categories

  1. Crime & Legal - Related - Legal Services
  2. Civil Rights, Social Action, Advocacy - Women's Rights
  3. -

Independent research has been conducted on this organization's theory of change or on the effectiveness of this organization's program(s)

No

Programs

Elder Law Project

The Elder Law Project (ELP) empowers low-income elders to maintain autonomy over their finances, possessions, and health as they age. The ELP does this in two ways: 
1. The ELP holds workshops to seniors at senior centers, low-income housing developments, and other community locations to educate seniors about the importance of having end-of-life documents such as wills, health care proxies, durable powers of attorney, and living wills.
 
2. The ELP pairs interested and eligible low-income seniors with WBF-trained attorneys to prepare these end of life documents on a pro bono basis.  
Budget  --
Category  Human Services, General/Other Senior Services
Population Served Elderly and/or Disabled Poor,Economically Disadvantaged,Indigent
Program Short-Term Success 
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Program Long-Term Success 
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Program Success Monitored By 
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Examples of Program Success 
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Family Law Project for Battered Women

The Family Law Project (FLP) is the largest pro bono program at the Women’s Bar Foundation. The FLP empowers survivors of domestic violence by pairing them with pro-bono attorneys specially trained by the WBF in the substantive issues of family law matters involving domestic violence.

Our volunteer attorneys represent more than 100 survivors at abuse prevention hearings and in family law matters such as divorce, child custody, and child support. Our staff attorney provides brief counsel and guidance to more than 200 individuals annually. 

For our clients, the support of an attorney not only helps them escape abusive environments, it helps them find stability and rebuild their lives. A favorable divorce, custody, or child support order helps survivors of abuse maintain or regain custody of children, keep their homes and jobs.

Budget  --
Category  Crime & Legal, General/Other
Population Served Females Victims Poor,Economically Disadvantaged,Indigent
Program Short-Term Success 
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Program Long-Term Success 
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Program Success Monitored By 
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Examples of Program Success 
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Hampden County Housing Court Project

The Hampden County Housing Court Project was created in response to the Hampden County Housing Court’s plea to local attorneys to help reduce the number of unrepresented people in Housing Court.  Volunteer attorneys assist low-income tenants and landlords in Springfield Housing Court each Thursday--known as "Eviction Day" The goal of this project is to prevent homelessness by preserving tenancies. 

Budget  --
Category  Crime & Legal, General/Other
Population Served Poor,Economically Disadvantaged,Indigent
Program Short-Term Success 
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Program Long-Term Success 
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Program Success Monitored By 
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Examples of Program Success 
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Women's Prison and Re-Entry Project

The Women's Prison Re-entry Project serves women incarcerated in Massachusetts’ prisons and jails, or those who have been involved with the criminal justice system. WBF volunteer attorneys hold educational presentations for women in South Bay House of Correction in Suffolk County and at the Boston offiec of Community Corrections.  Volunteer attorneys meet with women to provide information and answer questions about the types of legal issues that many incarcerated women are experiencing, including family law issues, child custody, child care and protection issues, housing, CORI (Criminal Offender Record Information) and criminal warrant clearing. This vital information helps women navigate post-incarceration hurdles such as reconnecting with, and caring for, their children, and finding housing and employment. 
Budget  --
Category  Crime & Legal, General/Other Inmate Support
Population Served Females Offenders/Ex-Offenders Poor,Economically Disadvantaged,Indigent
Program Short-Term Success 
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Program Long-Term Success 
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Program Success Monitored By 
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Examples of Program Success 
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CEO/Executive Director/Board Comments

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Management


CEO/Executive Director Ms. Patricia E. Comfort
CEO Term Start Sept 2011
CEO Email pcomfort@womensbar.org
CEO Experience Ms. Comfort brings years of experience in legal and nonprofit settings to the dual position with the sister organizations, the Women's Bar Association and Women's Bar Foundation. For the past nine years, she served as Director of the Equal Justice Coalition, where she was instrumental in building support for access to justice through legal aid funding. Her achievements included mobilizing the private bar across Massachusetts to advocate for legal aid and growing the annual “Walk to the Hill” to impressive proportions. Prior to joining the EJC, Ms. Comfort was Assistant Counsel at Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group, the Director of Community Organizing for Coalition for a Better Acre in Lowell, a Community Organizer for Tenants United for Public Housing Progress and the Assistant Director of the Cruise and Pershing Project in Washington, D.C. In addition, she is a longtime member of the WBA and other local bar associations. Ms. Comfort is a graduate of Boston College and Northeastern University School of Law.
Co-CEO --
Co-CEO Term Start --
Co-CEO Email --
Co-CEO Experience --

Former CEOs and Terms

Name Start End
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Senior Staff

Name Title Experience/Biography
Rachel B. Biscardi Director of Pro Bono Projects

Rachel Biscardi is the Director of Pro Bono Projects for the Women’s Bar Foundation (WBF) where she oversees the WBF’s five pro bono projects.  Ms. Biscardi is responsible for recruiting, training, and mentoring volunteer attorneys to represent victims of domestic violence in the Probate and Family Court.  Before joining the WBF, Ms. Biscardi worked at Legal Assistance Corporation of Central Massachusetts, the Essex County District Attorney’s Office, and clerked in the Probate and Family Court. 

Ms. Biscardi is an Adjunct Professor at New England Law teaching Family Law since 2011.  She also participates on the Governor’s Working Group on Child-centered Family Laws representing the Women’s Bar Association.  Ms. Biscardi is also co-chair of the Domestic and Sexual Violence Coalition, which is comprised of law firms, district attorney’s offices, legal service agencies, and batterer’s intervention programs.  Ms. Biscardi is also a member of the Boston Bar Association’s Family Law Steering Committee.  In 2010-2011, Ms. Biscardi served as the Women’s Bar Association’s representative on the Legislative Task Force on Alimony which drafted the Alimony Reform Act of 2011.  Ms. Biscardi is also an active member of the Family Law Task Force which is comprised of legal service attorneys from across the state that practice family law for low-income victims of domestic violence.  In 2010, the Women’s Bar Association awarded Ms. Biscardi with its Certificate of Service for her advocacy in alimony reform.  She has authored several articles on the value of pro bonowork in such journals as the BBA Family Law Journal and the WBA Chronicle. Ms. Biscardi is a graduate of Boston University School of Law with a specialization in litigation and dispute resolution.  

Awards

Award Awarding Organization Year
Public Service Award National Conference of Women's Bar Associations 2004
Supreme Judicial Court Adams Pro Bono Publico Award Supreme Judicial Court Standing Committee on Pro Bono Legal Services 2003
Distinguished Service Award R.O.S.E. Fund 1995

Affiliations

Affiliation Year
-- --
Member of state association of nonprofits? No
Name of state association --

External Assessments and Accreditations

External Assessment or Accreditation Year
-- --

Collaborations

The Women’s Bar Foundation was born in 1993 out of its
sister organization, the Women’s Bar Association (WBA). It serves as the
educational and charitable affiliate to the WBA, both of which promote and
advance gender equity. 

CEO/Executive Director/Board Comments

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Foundation Comments

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Staff Information

Number of Full Time Staff 1
Number of Part Time Staff 5
Number of Volunteers 200
Number of Contract Staff 0
Staff Retention Rate % 100%

Staff Demographics

Ethnicity African American/Black: 0
Asian American/Pacific Islander: 1
Caucasian: 5
Hispanic/Latino: 0
Native American/American Indian: 0
Other: 0
Other (if specified): 0
Gender Female: 6
Male: 0
Not Specified 0

Plans & Policies

Organization has Fundraising Plan? Yes
Organization has Strategic Plan? Yes
Years Strategic Plan Considers 3
Management Succession Plan Under Development
Business Continuity of Operations Plan No
Organization Policies And Procedures Yes
Nondiscrimination Policy Yes
Whistle Blower Policy No
Document Destruction Policy Yes
Directors and Officers Insurance Policy Yes
State Charitable Solicitations Permit --
State Registration --

Risk Management Provisions

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Reporting and Evaluations

Management Reports to Board? Yes
CEO Formal Evaluation and Frequency Yes Annually
Senior Management Formal Evaluation and Frequency Yes Semi-Annually
Non Management Formal Evaluation and Frequency Yes Semi-Annually

Governance


Board Chair Ms. Robin Walker Esq.
Board Chair Company Affiliation Casebia Therapeutics
Board Chair Term July 2016 - Dec 2017
Board Co-Chair --
Board Co-Chair Company Affiliation --
Board Co-Chair Term -

Board Members

Name Company Affiliations Status
Chris Butler Esq. Battered Women’s Advocacy Program, Suffolk University School of Law Voting
Elizabeth Carr Pignatelli Collora --
Margaret Caulfield Alkermes --
Kyla Curley StoneTurn Group LLP Voting
Janet Donovan Esq. Retired Voting
Amy C. Egloff Esq. Egloff & Wood Voting
Felicia Ellsworth Wilmerhale --
Ellen Farwell Esq. Dana-Farber Cancer Institute Voting
Jennifer Furey Esq. Goulston & Storrs --
Susan Galli Ropes & Gray --
Michele M. Garvin Esq. Boston Children's Hospital Voting
Angela Gomes Skadden --
Erin K. Higgins Esq. Conn Kavanaugh Rosenthal Peisch & Ford, LLP Voting
Sharon Simpson Jones Esq. Raytheon Company Voting
Meredith Leary Mintz Levin --
Manning Burke Lindsay Kenney & Sams, PC --
Sarah McClean Esq. Law Office of Sarah McClean Voting
Danielle McCourt Mass Health --
Siobhan Mee Esq. Morgan Lewis Voting
Kate O'Leary General Electric --
Michelle Peirce Esq. Donoghue Barrett & Singal, P.C. Voting
Katie Perry Metro West Legal Services --
Dahlia Rin U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission --
Jamie Ann Sabino Esq. Massachusetts Law Reform Voting
Uzma Saghir Esq. Liberty Mutual --
John Skinner Berkshire Hathaway Specialty Insurance --
Irit Tamir Oxfam America Voting
E. Abim Thomas Esq. Vertex Voting
Robin Walker Esq. Casebia Therapeutics Voting

Constituent Board Members

Name Company Affiliations Status
-- -- --

Youth Board Members

Name Company Affiliations Status
-- -- --

Advisory Board Members

Name Company Affiliations Status
-- -- --

Board Demographics

Ethnicity African American/Black: 3
Asian American/Pacific Islander: 0
Caucasian: 25
Hispanic/Latino: 0
Native American/American Indian: 0
Other: 1
Other (if specified): 0
Gender Female: 28
Male: 1
Not Specified 0

Board Information

Board Term Lengths 0
Board Term Limits 0
Board Meeting Attendance % 75%
Written Board Selection Criteria Yes
Written Conflict Of Interest Policy No
Percentage of Monetary Contributions 100%
Percentage of In-Kind Contributions 75%
Constituency Includes Client Representation No

Standing Committees

  • --
  • Development / Fund Development / Fund Raising / Grant Writing / Major Gifts
  • Finance
  • Marketing
  • Nominating
  • Program / Program Planning
  • Strategic Planning / Strategic Direction

CEO/Executive Director/Board Comments

      

Foundation Comments

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Financials


Revenue vs. Expense ($000s)

Expense Breakdown 2015 (%)

Expense Breakdown 2014 (%)

Expense Breakdown 2013 (%)

Fiscal Year Jan 01, 2017 to Dec 31, 2017
Projected Income $394,000.00
Projected Expense $391,000.00
Form 990s

2015 990

2014 990

2013 990

2012 990

2011 990

2010 990

2009 990

2008 990

Audit Documents

2015 Review

2014 Review

2013 Review

2012 Review

2011 Review

2010 Review

2009 Review

IRS Letter of Exemption

IRS Letter of Determination

Prior Three Years Total Revenue and Expense Totals

Fiscal Year 2015 2014 2013
Total Revenue $344,347 $303,846 $280,370
Total Expenses $305,570 $297,847 $289,115

Prior Three Years Revenue Sources

Fiscal Year 2015 2014 2013
Foundation and
Corporation Contributions
-- -- --
Government Contributions $0 $0 $0
    Federal -- -- --
    State -- -- --
    Local -- -- --
    Unspecified $0 -- --
Individual Contributions $193,408 $161,779 $168,022
Indirect Public Support $0 -- --
Earned Revenue $6,343 $6,843 $6,338
Investment Income, Net of Losses $15 $103 $181
Membership Dues $0 -- --
Special Events $144,581 $135,121 $105,829
Revenue In-Kind -- -- --
Other $0 -- --

Prior Three Years Expense Allocations

Fiscal Year 2015 2014 2013
Program Expense $224,173 $221,610 $216,394
Administration Expense $64,580 $59,521 $57,138
Fundraising Expense $16,817 $16,716 $15,583
Payments to Affiliates -- -- --
Total Revenue/Total Expenses 1.13 1.02 0.97
Program Expense/Total Expenses 73% 74% 75%
Fundraising Expense/Contributed Revenue 5% 6% 6%

Prior Three Years Assets and Liabilities

Fiscal Year 2015 2014 2013
Total Assets $381,171 $290,345 $246,643
Current Assets $377,389 $278,406 $232,487
Long-Term Liabilities $0 $0 $0
Current Liabilities $163,757 $111,708 $74,005
Total Net Assets $217,414 $178,637 $172,638

Prior Three Years Top Three Funding Sources

Fiscal Year 2015 2014 2013
1st (Source and Amount) -- --
-- --
-- --
2nd (Source and Amount) -- --
-- --
-- --
3rd (Source and Amount) -- --
-- --
-- --

Financial Planning

Endowment Value --
Spending Policy N/A
Percentage(If selected) --
Credit Line No
Reserve Fund Yes
How many months does reserve cover? 4.00

Capital Campaign

Are you currently in a Capital Campaign? No
Capital Campaign Purpose --
Campaign Goal --
Capital Campaign Dates -
Capital Campaign Raised-to-Date Amount --
Capital Campaign Anticipated in Next 5 Years? --

Short Term Solvency

Fiscal Year 2015 2014 2013
Current Ratio: Current Assets/Current Liabilities 2.30 2.49 3.14

Long Term Solvency

Fiscal Year 2015 2014 2013
Long-term Liabilities/Total Assets 0% 0% 0%

CEO/Executive Director/Board Comments

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Foundation Comments

Financial summary data in the charts and graphs above is per the organization's IRS Form 990s.  Contributions from foundations and corporations are listed under individuals when the breakout was not available.

Documents


Other Documents

Annual Report (2012)

Impact

The Impact tab is a section on the Giving Common added in October 2013; as such the majority of nonprofits have not yet had the chance to complete this voluntary section. The purpose of the Impact section is to ask five deceptively simple questions that require reflection and promote communication about what really matters – results. The goal is to encourage strategic thinking about how a nonprofit will achieve its goals. The following Impact questions are being completed by nonprofits slowly, thoughtfully and at the right time for their respective organizations to ensure the most accurate information possible.


1. What is your organization aiming to accomplish?

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2. What are your strategies for making this happen?

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3. What are your organization’s capabilities for doing this?

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4. How will your organization know if you are making progress?

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5. What have and haven’t you accomplished so far?

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