UO Law's Nonprofit Clinic offers free governance assessments

Campus building

Applications are now open for the UO School of Law’s Nonprofit Clinic, which offers a free governance assessment to Oregon-based 501(c)(3) organizations in need of structural assistance.

The clinic is an interdisciplinary project of Oregon Law that trains graduate students from the School of Law, the Department of Planning, Public Policy and Management, Conflict and Dispute Resolution Program, and the Lundquist College of Business.

Assessments include an analysis and recommendations covering board governance, board-staff dynamics, fiscal controls, policies and procedures, bylaws and legal compliance, conflict management, and board orientation.

Beatrice Dohrn, director of the clinic said that by addressing the real-world needs of participating nonprofit organizations the students' work reaches people across Oregon who depend on nonprofits for a broad array of critical services and cultural enhancements.

“Oregonians place extremely high reliance on nonprofits for many essential services traditionally in local government’s purview,” Dohrn said. “While providing this valuable service to participating nonprofits and the broader community, the students reap significant professional benefit. They are the next generation of nonprofit leaders and volunteers.”

This year, the clinic will provide its services remotely in spring 2021. Dohrn said the change will allow it to serve more clients outside the immediate Eugene-Springfield area.

“While we are always open to working with groups throughout Oregon, the remote format levels the playing field for far-away boards,” Dohrn said.

Past clients describe the experience as energizing and motivating for their board members, whose morale and productivity is enhanced by the student’s concrete recommendations.

Julie Gilman, executive director of Court Appointed Special Advocates of Linn County, said that the free board assessment her organization received in 2018 was extremely valuable. 

“The graduate students were genuinely invested in learning about our non-profit,” Gilman said. “They ultimately provided an assessment that demonstrated that they had dug down deep into some of the difficult issues we presented and provided a meaningful, impactful analysis of our board’s functioning, as well as some suggested solutions and guidance.”

Tom Sincic, board president of Health Care for All Oregon, said the clinic made a timely contribution to their organization in 2019. He said Health Care for All Oregon had never undertaken a board analysis, and the students came into a situation of a changing organization that needed critical guidance.

“Each student brought perspectives from their specialty (legal, conflict resolution, and nonprofit management) to deliver the evaluation needed,” Sincic said. “This work has helped the board look at and prioritize its board work for the better to do the education and advocacy efforts needed to advance its mission. A better focus and clarity internally has allowed the organization to better analyze how it may support the work of its chapters and carry on its community engagement work."

Nonprofit boards that would benefit from receiving services in early 2021 are encouraged to apply now.

—By Rayna Jackson, School of Law Communications