The Mission Is The Message ...

As we open the doors on 2015, In Brief chatted with new Board Chair Carole Cukell Neff of Sessions Fishman Nathan & Israel LLC to talk about her goals for The Pro Bono Project in 2015.

Carole Cukell Neff, 2015 Board Chair

Carole Cukell Neff, 2015 Board Chair

Carole is a long-time supporter of The Project and has been on the Board since 2007. She has chaired the Succession Committee following Katrina and has served on the Executive Committee for the past 3 years so she knows the needs of the organization, its volunteers and clients very well.

In 2011, she was instrumental in putting together The Project's planned giving program, Pro Bono For Life. As a Board-certified Estate Planner and Administrator, it's only natural that the expansion of this program is one of her top priorities for 2015.

"The work of The Project is an important legacy for the attorneys in this city. For others outside the legal community to invest in The Project now, and for the future, we must take the first step," says Carole.

Over the course of this year, Carole plans to convene a task force to forward the conversation and activities about planned giving among members of the legal community.

Carole adds, "Lawyers make wills, too. They can help kick start the Pro Bono For Life planned giving program and make it a reality. If we don't, then who will?"

In addition to this, Carole is focusing on the 2015 Justice For All Ball and making certain that we build on the success of the 2014 Ball.

"We want the Ball to get better and better each year - not just in financial terms, but also as the premier social event for the legal community. Lawyers don't spend much time socializing with each other and the Ball is a primary venue for being able to relax and enjoy each other, to build camaraderie. It's a night of great food and drink, and wonderful entertainment, where we can step away for a moment from the business of law and ensure the financial future of The Project in a fun way," she says.

Finally, Carole's goals includes increasing the engagement of the Board and the legal community in the mission and message of The Pro Bono Project.

"This is our organization - it needs our support and involvement to be successful in continuing to respond to the civil legal needs of the under-served in our community. We've been a trailblazer in the delivery of high quality services and programs and we want to make certain that we're on the cutting edge across the board," Carole explains.

Active in many non-profits across the community, Carole has learned over the years that everyone has something that they can offer to forward the mission of an organization. Her philosophy, which has served her well, is to find that skill, talent or niche where one is comfortable and commit to using it in service to the organization.

"What I've always done is focus on the mission and message. That's helped me to get beyond myself and my insecurities, and the feeling of being uncomfortable, particularly when it comes to raising funds. People will give if they are asked and we are often reluctant to ask. When we show them that we respect and care about the mission and value of the organization to the community - they will be more open to giving, " she says.

Carole wants Board members to focus on their strengths - to choose that niche where they are personally comfortable, which works for them, and then commit to giving it their all. She strongly feels that by doing this, they can make their greatest contribution o the organization and the community.

"There are so many ways of participating and supporting The Project - when Board members and others are comfortable, they buy into the mission and the needs of the organization. They feel good about themselves, that they are doing good things for themselves and humanity. The need is never going to go away - there will always be a need for civil legal services and it continues to grow. We have to be able and willing to respond to it," Carole says.

Overall, Carole sees good things happening in 2015.

"I'm excited about this year. We have a wonderful board and great support from outside the Board. We are so fortunate to have those from outside who bring new skills and new perspective - they are committed to the organization to help make it better and more formidable. What more could I ask for?"