When the Social Innovation Forum (SIF) selected Veterans Legal Services (VLS) for the 2014 Social Innovator cohort, the 23-year-old organization had not experienced significant growth for nearly two decades. VLS was serving 350 veterans each year at three partner sites, and its three staff members worked out of donated, long-outgrown office space on the Boston College Law School campus.
Anna Richardson and Sarah Roxburgh Lucyniak, attorneys who had started with VLS as program staff, had just become co-directors and had a desire to move the organization forward. However, they needed support in taking it to the next level.
Every time we have had a breakthrough, we have seen a connection back to the process with the Social Innovation Forum.
Anna and Sarah worked with their SIF consultant to articulate a strategy for growth and to frame a fundraising plan to support it. The consultant and a pro-bono design team helped Veterans Legal Services create a prospectus and a professionally designed PowerPoint presentation to showcase its work to potential investors. Anna then had the opportunity to pitch to an audience of over 300 people at the Social Innovation Forum’s annual Showcase event.
Additionally, over the course of six months, executive coaches provided by SIF worked with Anna and Sarah to help them develop the leadership skills needed to guide their organization and to leverage their respective strengths to work more effectively as a leadership team.
The SIF experience was a turning point for the organization. Within 12 months, Veterans Legal Services had secured $300,000 in commitments from new funders, including Cummings Foundation, Robert K. Kraft, and other private family foundations. A newly energized board brought in an additional $145,000 through its annual gala.
“Our organization has changed significantly since our selection as a Social Innovator," said Anna. "Every time we have had a breakthrough, we have seen a connection back to the process with the Social Innovation Forum.”
Anna and Sarah are leading the organization forward on a course for growth, serving around 100 additional veterans just one year after joining the SIF portfolio. Recently, VLS started a new program site at the Bedford VA Medical Center and expects to add another partner site within the year. On Veterans Day 2015, the organization welcomed guests at an open house to celebrate its move to new office space in downtown Boston, which has allowed the organization to better serve the veterans most in need of legal assistance.