November 12, 2012
University of Oregon Nonprofit Clinic Strengthens Eugene’s Nonprofit Community
After a successful first year, the clinic is now preparing to work with a new selection of nonprofit organizations from throughout the state.
Beginning its second year, the University of Oregon School of Law’s Nonprofit Clinic is currently accepting applications from nonprofits interested in participating in this interdisciplinary program. Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis; nonprofits are strongly encouraged to apply before December. As with last year’s program, 12 twelve nonprofit organizations will be selected to participate in the 2013 clinic, which is free of charge. The clinic hopes to work with local nonprofits as well as with nonprofits in rural Oregon this year.
In January of 2013, each nonprofit will be teamed with three students: one student enrolled in the University of Oregon School of Law, one student from the Oregon graduate school’s Conflict and Dispute Resolution program and one student from the graduate school’s Planning, Public Policy and Management program. From January through April, these students, under the supervision of professional nonprofit consultants, will work with the nonprofit organization to assess its governance structure, management practices and key policies and procedures, and then offer recommendations and suggested next steps to further strengthen the organization.
According to Clinic Director Carrie Heltzel, the clinic provides a mutually beneficial opportunity for students to learn about nonprofits through real world experience, while at the same time aiding nonprofits through conducting governance and management assessments which may provide valuable reality checks, alignment to best practices and set the stage for committed action.
Emerald KidSports Executive Director Bev Smith participated in the nonprofit clinic program during its inaugural year. The organization provides youth sports programs to pre-K through 12 graders in the Eugene-Springfield community and surrounding areas. Smith found working with an experienced third party was helpful in auditing her organization for areas of improvement.
"I think the most meaningful part of the clinic was having the group of folks with nonprofit experience and expertise help us to take such a broad, critical look at our organization,” said Smith. “Reviewing our bylaws and policies will tighten up those essential documents and practices.”
Susan Gary, the clinic’s co-founder and faculty advisor, worked with Nonprofit Management Program Director Rene Irvin for ten years to develop the program before the clinic finally came to fruition in January of 2012. The clinic’s interdisciplinary model makes it the only clinic of its kind in the country.
Gary believes the clinic provides a valuable service to Oregon’s non-profit community.
“Nonprofits provide incredible support to the community in a variety of ways,” said Gary. “If we can strengthen their governance structure, they will then be more able to do the good work they are trying to do.”
In the future, Gary sees the clinic providing resources such as live trainings for the non-profit community and developing a stronger state-wide scope. Eventually, Gary envisions the formation of a second clinic; the first clinic would provide assessments to nonprofits, while the second would provide legal services to assist nonprofits in improving their organizations.