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Justice in the Courtroom, Service in the Community Interview with Daniel K. Kramer, President of Los Angeles Trial Lawyers’ Charities
With responsibility in the courtroom, comes responsibility in the community. Los Angeles Trial Lawyers’ Charities have remained a strong source of support to the greater Los Angeles community through the hard times of 2020, and have begun their volunteer events for the year. Kramer will be able to speak on what makes LATLC so successful and the message of “Justice in the Courtroom, Service in the Community”
Daniel K. Kramer is an award-winning trial attorney and Founding partner of Kramer Trial Lawyers. Kramer specializes in representing families and individuals involved in catastrophic personal injury and wrongful death matters, as well as employment discrimination and retaliation lawsuits. Daniel has obtained numerous jury verdicts as lead counsel, all victories on behalf of his clients. Multiple verdicts have been featured in both The Daily Journal, Verdict Search, The Huffington Post, and Fox 11 News.
Daniel is the 2021 President of Los Angeles Trial Lawyers’ Charities, the nonprofit organization that is making a difference in the greater Los Angeles community. They have several events coming up including their Mothers Day Celebration for Bresee Youth Center and the highly anticipated Summer Soiree.
Los Angeles Trial Lawyers’ Charities was founded in 2006 by seven plaintiff personal injury attorneys whose mission was to make a tangible, positive difference in the community through financial support and volunteer service. Today, LATLC focuses on education, children, survivors of abuse, persons with disabilities, and homelessness. Since its launch, the LATLC has grown to more than 3,000 supporters, provided more than $5 million in grants and goods, and volunteered over 6000 hours.
For more information, go to http://www.latlc.org
Read the Interview Transcript
Hugh Ballou: Greetings, everyone. This is Hugh Ballou back with The Nonprofit Exchange. We have unique guests every week who have a passion for providing something of value. Today, we have a person who is a president of a nonprofit in Los Angeles, California. Without going too deep into it, we have Daniel Kramer sitting in his office in California, and I am in Virginia. What a great world this is. Daniel, tell people a little bit about yourself and the nonprofit that you’re president of. What is your passion for this?
Daniel K. Kramer: Sure. Thanks for having me, Hugh. It’s great to be on. I hope everyone had a great holiday weekend. I’m Daniel Kramer. I am a trial lawyer out here in Los Angeles, California. I am a trial lawyer, which means I represent plaintiffs, people, who are oftentimes in a catastrophic injury incident, or they lost a loved one in a wrongful death case. I also represent people who are discriminated against for their sex, race, religion, or sexual orientation, and are fired by their employers for an illegal reason. I represent plaintiffs in the courtroom. We take cases to trial. We often go against the biggest, most well-funded Fortune 500 companies, insurance companies that have wronged people. We go after them in court. I live and breathe in the courtroom in front of juries all the time. That is on my business side. I have a firm, Kramer Trial Lawyers, here in Los Angeles.
I am also president of Los Angeles Trial Lawyers Charities. That is a nonprofit organization here in the Los Angeles area that is made up of plaintiff trial lawyers like myself. We fight for the little guy in the courtroom. Outside of the courtroom, we give back to the people who need it most in the Los Angeles area. That is children with disabilities, battered women, the homeless. Anyone who needs help in LA, we give it to them. We oftentimes give money to our partner charities. We also have our own specific events we put on to give back to the community here. Especially after COVID hit badly in LA, a lot of people needed help. The trial lawyers in LA stepped up and gave back.
Hugh: That’s really cool. I guess it’s like some other areas, there is a lot of stuff that we don’t know that we don’t know, like leadership. This LATLC is a 501(c)3 in California.
Hugh: You stood up at some point and said you’d be president of this. Why did you do that?
Daniel: I got asked to be on the board about six years ago. Our organization is set up like a ladder. You are elected as the secretary. Then you have five spots. You move into the treasurer the next year. Vice president, president elect, and president. At my first meeting, when I was on the board, someone asked for help with the budgets. We didn’t have enough money to hire a staff or a bookkeeper. Most trial lawyers do not know how to do books. They don’t know how to do QuickBooks or balance the budgets. You don’t learn that in law school. But when I had started my first law firm back in 2012, I actually took that on. My partners didn’t want to do it. I kinda like numbers, so I took a crack at it. I dove into it and loved it. I learned about managing finances and doing QuickBooks. I volunteered. Then I took off with that and revamped how we did our organizational finances for the charity. They could use someone like me in leadership, so they nominated me to ran. I ran for secretary. That was five years ago. Now it’s my turn to serve as president. We are doing a lot of exciting things.
Hugh: When we use the word “nonprofit” to identify our organization, that is the beginning of a downward spiral. We start thinking in scarcity terms. What we are running is a tax-exempt business, which has more rules than a business does. If we get a different mindset, like you showed, someone gave you the opportunity to step up. Many times, people say, “I don’t want to bother him. He’s already busy.”
Talk a minute about the mindset. You have been on other nonprofit boards. You said, “I want to take a crack at this.” What I heard you say is you got some real support on that. You were able to bring lots of value to the organization. For leaders trying to empower their boards, what advice would you have around dealing with someone like you who they might have on the board but are not aware they have you?
Daniel: What you said is a really good point. “Nonprofit” is a term we all use. But we have to approach this like you would approach a business. You have to have revenue streams. You have to take a conscious eye to expenses. The way you look at a business to make it profitable, I believe, you have to take an approach like a business owner to nonprofits. The more money we raise from revenue streams, the less expenses we can cut on admin, that is money we can give directly back to the community and make a big difference. But you have to have that mindset. That is a great point you bring up.
When you are scouring your board and looking for top people to step up and take the reins, look for who has the background to help in this particular area. Obviously for fundraising, you want to find some marketing people, people who know how to reach out and have a big network of people to hit up who can donate money. On the back end, look for people with a budget or finance background. They can look at the numbers and understand the numbers and figure out ways to save and look at revenue streams.
That is a big thing I have been doing in my presidency is looking at alternate avenues for revenue raising. COVID is what forced us to do this. We have used the lessons from COVID, which so many people have done on the business side, and said, “Okay, we can’t put our eggs in one basket for the gala, where we raise most of our money,” which is great. But with COVID, we couldn’t do that. We couldn’t have a 1,000-person gala where we raise hundreds of thousands of dollars. We had to pivot and figure out how to do virtual events. We realized we had to have multiple revenue streams, so in case one goes down, we can keep the charity afloat and give people money who need it most.
Hugh: That’s a recurring theme that we hope people get. I can’t tell you how many people have talked about that. Here it is again. A majority of our nonprofits that are in trouble have not established those multiple revenue streams. It’s never too late to start. We teach at SynerVision there are eight basic streams if you don’t have real estate or investments. There are eight you can activate right away. There are ups and downs.
You have given us a lot of good stuff in the first few minutes. Go back to reaching out to find the right skillset and the right participation for new board members. You came into this organization as a regular board member. Was there someone who recruited you or invited you? How did that happen?
Daniel: One of the former presidents, Scott Corwin, who is an integral part of the organization, we had become friends through other plaintiff bar organizations on the plaintiff side. He saw that I was a worker and I would volunteer for things and follow through. He recruited me to get involved with LATLC, starting out on the committees. We had a variety of committees as most nonprofits do. He saw that I was stepping up to do the work there. Again, I started talking to him about the budget. He pushed me to go in that direction. That is how I came into where I am now.
To answer your question on recruitment, as a leader, what I did before I became president is I spent the last three months of the prior president’s term calling and setting up meetings with every single board member and committee member. It took a lot of time, but during COVID, it was easy to set up over Zoom. I sat down with each of them over Zoom and asked what their goals were for the organization. What part do you want to play? What strengths do you think you can add in terms of what your vision is? This is what we need on the admin side, fundraising side, and event side. I had them tell me what they were interested in and what their skillset is. I used that information to place people on different committees and in different leadership roles. I think it’s made a huge difference.
It was me doing the legwork to spend the time getting to know each board member. Maybe I was lucky. Maybe I wouldn’t have done it if I wasn’t in COVID and not in trial all the time. But COVID gave me the time to meet these people and interview them and see what they want. I got a lot of notes on where I wanted to take the organization based on their information.
Hugh: LA must have thousands of nonprofits.
Hugh: There are some that have not taken advantage of what you articulated here. We can’t control the circumstances. James Allen wrote a little book many years ago, over 100, As a Man Thinketh. I am going to revise this to be gender-neutral. He said, “Circumstances don’t make a person; they reveal who they are to themselves and others.” We can blame the circumstances. What you did was take the circumstances and pivot or reinvent or create some opportunities from that. There is a trade-off. You weren’t traveling as much. Zoom is the new black hole. Blessings we have Zoom. We can get over Zoom. A lot of groups that I’m in are international groups. We are able to do things we couldn’t do before. What you just have highlighted is there is opportunity if you look for it.
You are president of the board. Does the organization have a staff?
Daniel: We have an amazing executive director, Lissa Zanville, who does so much. She is a nonstop hard worker. We hired an executive director about three or four years ago because we were growing too much. We are all busy trial attorneys. We were able to raise the money to afford it and still hit the numbers we needed to hit percentagewise according to Charity Navigator. We were able to hit our numbers. We have one staff member. We are growing so much due to these revenue streams we are bringing in that I think we are going to bring on another.
Hugh: Talk about the relationship of the board president and the executive director. How have you created that? How do you make that work for you? How do you define areas of work and responsibility?
Daniel: She oversees a lot, almost everything. We do have a social media/marketing person who gets our stuff out there. On the day-to-day, it’s not an employer/employee relationship, at least not in my organization. I don’t treat it like that. She keeps me to task. These are the areas we need to do. Myself and the executive committee create the vision. We have committees made up of lawyers who do a lot of the legwork, but she is the point person for everything. This year, I do a weekly Zoom meeting with her and our other part-time staffer where we meet and go over everything. I am in constant communication with her, multiple times a day, either through text, email, call. We do have a set meeting at least once a week to go over everything.
Hugh: That’s great. When I first moved to Lynchburg, Virginia, over three and a half years ago, one of the first groups I engaged with, because I am a conductor, was the Lynchburg Symphony. I sought them out and asked how I could be helpful. They had good people on the board, but they weren’t delivering people at the concerts, they weren’t making money, and they were in dire financial straits. I said, “Let’s look at our systems, leadership, and vision for where we’re going.” We did a turnaround based on the kinds of things you’re talking about. Then we went into hiring a conductor and an executive director.
The year I was president, I got to bring in some new board members. I wanted to work toward a nominating committee that looks at people not just at election time but all the time. We didn’t get quite there. But who is a candidate to get in the space?
There is balance. This is a trap we get into. I work with groups of doctors and lawyers and musicians. The assumption is everybody has to know about music or law, which is wrong. You really need people that are outside of that. Talk about your vision for the board makeup. How do you balance those different perspectives? If everyone is of one persuasion, there are a lot of blind spots, if you’re too heavily weighted in one discipline.
Daniel: That’s true. We are made up of almost exclusively plaintiff trial lawyers. On the board, you have to be on the plaintiff side. We don’t let defense attorneys, attorneys that represent insurance companies or big companies on the board. We did let non-lawyers on the board, but they are mostly employees at law firms. To be honest, we haven’t expanded outside of the law to be on our board yet because, like I said, we are a trial lawyer organization.
I absolutely think it would help to have different perspectives. We would be open to it. We work with a lot of partner charities. A big part of our giving is passed through. We have partner charities come to our board meetings. We work closely with them to find out what their needs are. We learn from them about their organizational structures. So far, we are made up of almost exclusively plaintiff trial lawyers, if that makes sense.
Hugh: It does. But you’re open to the idea that maybe some other people could be helpful?
Daniel: Absolutely. I’m open to everything. 100%.
Hugh: How old is this organization?
Daniel: We started in 2006. A handful of 5-6 plaintiff lawyers got together and raised about $20,000 to give away. Since then, we have grown. We are in our 15th anniversary. To date, we have given away about $5 million. It has grown by leaps and bounds. One of my biggest platforms was to expand. LATLC is in Los Angeles. But we have launched Orange County Trial Lawyers Charities. We want to take it throughout the state and ideally throughout the country.
The one thing we have learned during COVID, especially on the plaintiff trial lawyer side, is that we have been connected nationally through webinars on Zoom and other plaintiff organizations. We are learning from each other throughout the country. I just got asked to speak in Canada because they saw me speak on a Zoom webinar about trial skills for example. That is happening throughout the country. When people hear about LATLC, there is really nothing else like it in other parts of the country. We were contacted by trial lawyers in Philadelphia who want to start a Pennsylvania or Philadelphia TLC. Trial lawyers do want to give back. We are totally open to expanding our reach nationwide. We launched Orange County. The Bay Area will be next. We will go from there.
Hugh: I have seen that happen in a number of fields over this last year and a half. It’s like we have a chance to reboot. We had time to think about things and say, “Why not?” How about a story? We won’t share names, but is there a story about the successful work your organization has done for people?
Daniel: Even just over the last holiday season, we typically do a big 2,000-person fair called Comfort and Joy. Some of the most underprivileged neighborhoods in Los Angeles, South Central area, Inglewood, Compton. We put on a big Christmas fair. We usually work with a police organization in a police department in one of the most high-crime areas. These kids often don’t have toys for the holidays or turkeys or ham. We have hundreds of volunteers who come out there. We give away toys and food for the holidays. During COVID, we couldn’t do it. We did try to pivot.
Instead of putting on a big fair, myself and the past president, Alyssa Schabloski, we worked with the Newton Police Division. It was the two of us and a bunch of police officers in masks, and we created a Santa in police cars. The police cars would go to different houses. We had these bags of toys and food. When these kids came out, they were in tears. The parents were in tears. Like I said, these families were already struggling, and COVID, at that time in LA around Christmas, we were the highest in the country in terms of COVID rates. We were going to areas where these people lived together in groups, so they were hit extremely hard. To see these kids light up when we were bringing them food and toys that our volunteers had donated. They wanted to be there so bad but couldn’t, so they gave away lots of toys. They were so thrilled and excited. It was a beautiful thing to see.
It was great for the officers because during that time, they had been through a lot in Los Angeles. Both sides of community relations with the police. It was a win-win all around. it was special to see. I know a lot more volunteers wanted to be there, but I was fortunate to give to these kids and families who needed it.
Hugh: One of my friends is an attorney who lives in LA, I think. You may know of him; his name is Stewart Levine. He calls himself the Resolutionary Attorney. He used to do prosecutions, but he never went to court because he works things out with people. He has these 10 essential elements of agreements. He teaches people how to do effective agreements. There are a lot of situations where people would not need a trial lawyer if they had a really good agreement. I’m sure you wonder how people get to where they get. People who are under-privileged do not have resources to even go visit with an attorney to talk about what their rights are. How do you help these people think about what they don’t know, and in the future, what they could learn about looking at agreements or contracts in a preventative way? Is that part of what you do?
Daniel: It’s not really what we do, so to speak. The way our attorneys in our organization work, we are all contingency-based. We don’t charge any money unless we get a recovery from the defendant or the insurance company. We do represent in my business a lot of people who are almost on the streets, who have either been severely injured or lost a loved one or fired.
We took a case to trial where our client was a worker at a big fancy jeans manufacturer. He was hurt on the job, and they fired him, like an old piece of jeans honestly. We had to sue the company because he was basically on the streets because he couldn’t get another job because he was hurt. The law in California states that you can’t discriminate against someone because they are hurt or disabled. You have to accommodate them. They didn’t do any of that. We took that case to trial and got a great verdict for him and sent a message to the garment industry in LA that you can’t treat people like that. You can’t fire people because they got hurt on the job. Our verdict went a long way to changing things here, and it changed his life.
He is no longer having to pick up cans to survive. He has six daughters. He is an immigrant from Mexico, and he sent his six daughters to Berkeley, UCLA, etc. The classic American Dream. He was thrown out because he was hurt and couldn’t- They didn’t want to try to accommodate him. The jury saw in our favor. He is an example of someone who represented. He obviously couldn’t afford to pay us, but we were able to work it out so that things went really well for him. That is the area we practice. We don’t do contract law or anything like that.
Hugh: I work with a lot of attorneys on intellectual property, contracts, and nonprofit law. Not in prosecution although I do have attorneys who are friends of mine. They are the ones who tell me all the best lawyer jokes by the way. The danger is that conductor jokes and lawyer jokes are many times the same jokes.
Daniel: I don’t think I’ve heard a good conductor joke in a while.
Hugh: You just take a lawyer joke. Anything that has to do with ego or self-respect, it will work there.
How far into your presidency are you?
Daniel: Just over halfway on July 1.
Hugh: It’s a three-year gig?
Daniel: No, it’s one year.
Hugh: One year?
Daniel: We are a ladder. We are on the executive committee. I have to serve another two years as the past president on the executive committee.
Hugh: That’s where I was headed. There is a preparation time that looks like it’s systematic. By the time you’re president, you got an idea of what’s going on.
Hugh: Believe it or not, that doesn’t exist in a lot of organizations. “Oh, you’re president, we elected you in May, and you start next week.” “Okay, what do I do?” Talk about your ramping up to be president. For people thinking about systems and board responsibilities, let’s put it in a sequence here so it’s clear. Think of my age and mental condition. How do we get ourselves prepared to do a good job? Then we do that work. There is the benefit of what we did and what we learned that new people don’t have. Talk about that whole process.
Daniel: I’m a huge believer in the ladder system. I am on the board of directors for the alumni of my law school here in Los Angeles. I revamped my bylaws to create a ladder. Before, it was what you were saying. You’re elected as president, and boom, you’re in. You’ve had no planning or preparation time. I think the ladder is great. It really prepares the president for when it’s their time.
For me, I spent about six months before planning my year, meeting with people, laying out a platform for what I want to implement so that when I am president on January 1, I am hitting the ground running. I am not ramping up in that time. Thank God I had that because it did save me a lot of work, and it helped us get on this trajectory when we were off to the races once things started opening up from COVID.
You start as secretary. I didn’t know much at all when I was elected as secretary. Thank God I had that time because I was learning about how the charity functioned. As a board member, you’re involved, but you don’t know the inner workings. There are executive committee meetings way more often than board meetings. At board meetings, there is so much to go through, so many committee reports. You don’t have time to get intimate with each chapter within the charity.
Once you’re on the executive committee, you are seeing how other presidents do it and are learning from them. Those are small. Six, seven people. You go into heavy discussions about big decisions that have to be made that the rest of the board doesn’t know about. I had so many executive committee meetings under my belt by the time I was president that I was ready to go. I am a big believer in the ladder system.
Hugh: Out of my way, I’m ready to go. That’s a great story. After this year, you have two years of sharing your wisdom and watching someone else sweat.
Daniel: I can sit back and make some comments here and there.
Hugh: *Sponsored by Nonprofit Performance Magazine*
Daniel, we have had guests talk about the legal side of a nonprofit. Being inside of a nonprofit, your area of expertise is other. There are so many areas of law. In looking at this organization, there are some upgrades we’re always looking at. Looking at nonprofit boards and organizations, are there some areas of compliance that people ignore but really shouldn’t?
Daniel: I hope you are not going to ask me a bunch of nonprofit legal questions.
Hugh: That’s not your area. I wouldn’t do that.
Daniel: We are made up of a bunch of lawyers. Like you said earlier, we don’t know what we don’t know. That’s why we hired a nonprofit lawyer recently because we are trying to expand. There are a lot of compliance issues I had no idea about. When we wanted to expand, we had all of this intellectual property that is the Los Angeles Trial Lawyers Charities brand. We’re Los Angeles. They are going to become Orange County TLC. In order to let them run with their new charity, we are owning the IP, but they need to give us some consideration in return for that. We didn’t want to take their money, so there had to be some way to make it a clean expansion.
There are so many things we are learning about through our nonprofit attorney. Making sure we stick with our mission statement, that we stick with just Los Angeles. If we go outside Los Angeles and do things in Ventura, that can give us trouble with sticking to our region. It’s worth spending the money with a nonprofit lawyer to make sure you’re doing everything right. It’s worth biting the bullet if you can in the beginning to set it up right.
Hugh: That’s a great answer. Here it is from a person who is a skilled attorney, saying, “I don’t know this stuff. We need someone who is an expert who does know this stuff.” Daniel, that’s a big gap. Intellectual property belongs to the charity. The charity has rights over that, stewardship of that asset. How do you leverage that for the value? Even if you did bring in money, which you could use that as a revenue stream, that would go back into the work you’re doing. It’s not our money; it’s money for the mission of the organization. That’s what I hoped you would say. I’m making up questions here so you’re in trouble.
Daniel: To be honest, it’s something we should have done a long time ago. If you’re starting a new organization or expanding or making a big move within your organization, talk to the experts. Trying to do it all on your own or through a legal Zoom or not consulting a tax expert or bookkeeper, you think you’re saving yourself money, but in the long run, it will cost you more. Someone will have to unwind a bunch of stuff. It will take them more time. If they did it right from the beginning, you’re going to save yourself headache and time. They will do it right. It’s an important investment initially, and it will save you a lot in the long run.
Hugh: You can’t make yourself exempt from an IRS audit, but you can sure make yourself ready for it. Those things you need to know. Would you entertain a question from a viewer?
Hugh: J.E. Rash is in Bedford, Virginia. He’s had four charities for 40 years, doing amazing work around the globe. Legacy International is one that I think is really prominent. We do some work together. Mr. Rash, you had a question. Would you ask it personally?
J.E. Rash: Hi, Daniel. It’s nice to see a lawyer doing good charity work. I went through that process myself 50 years ago and decided that I better just do the nonprofit work and save humanity the misery of having to deal with me from a legal point of view.
On your website, you have about 123 sponsors. That’s terrific. My question is what is the process you use to recruit those supporters and sustain those relationships?
Daniel: That’s a great question. So much of what LATLC is we are a passthrough charity. We give away the vast majority of what we raise to these partner charities. The way it started, we had a few. In the very early days, we weren’t raising too much, but we had a few partner charities that one of our original founding board members would work with.
Over time, as we have expanded and raised millions of dollars, we have a grantmaking process. We use a software, and we have a date that the partner charity has to apply for a grant. We have a whole committee that spends hours and hours late into the night combing through each applicant. Each of these partner charities submit what their mission statement is, how much money they need, what they are going to use the money for. We sift through the application and figure out if it meets our mission or not. These meetings get intense because we obviously want to give to everyone, but some of these partner charities don’t fit in with our mission. We’re not sure if the money is going to make a big impact to the people they say they will.
Once we come up with a decision, we say, “Based on how much money we have raised this year, we can give away X.” We can’t give what they asked for, but we can give a little bit less, or half. Then we spread it out over however many charities meet our standards. That is then presented to the board. The board then takes the committee’s recommendations. We debate it and analyze it. The whole board votes on we have X amount of money to give away. We will give X amount to these qualified charities. That’s how it works. That’s the passthrough part of it.
We also work with these partner charities to put on events. We will work with the Venice Family Clinic, which helps homeless people in Venice, California. We will put on a Day of Dignity. That is an event we put on with them where we set up portable showers and have doctors come in. We have a small clothing store that donates clothes. The homeless in Venice can have a day where they get a restart where they can take showers, get medicine, get the clothes they need. Those are our direct giving, meaning we put on the event with the partner charities.
We have lots of ways we cultivate those relationships, but those are the two main ways, I would say.
Hugh: Is that what you were after, Mr. Rash?
J.E.: That’s half of the question. The other part is you have platinum, gold, different levels of sponsors. What I was trying to get at is how you recruit those sponsors and sustain those relationships.
Daniel: Ah okay, got it. The way we raise money is mostly from trial lawyers or vendors who support trial lawyers such as court reporting services, medical management companies, lending companies that lend to our clients, like litigation lending. There is a huge array of supporting vendors that support trial lawyers, and they want to get their name in front of trial lawyers to get their business. They will sponsor our big summer soiree in August, for example, in the Intercontinental in downtown Los Angeles, where it’s a big gala. We are integrating our partner charities in the event. There is a great trike giveaway which is adaptive bicycles for disabled kids. We are going to have a trike race during the event, which will showcase what these charities do. We could have a sponsor of that trike race. They will pay us money to be a sponsor. At whatever level they donate, they get which level you see on the website. Make sense?
Hugh: Thank you for asking that. This is a very often considered and asked question. We travel around the country, mostly on Zoom now, but in years past, in person for workshops for nonprofit leaders. How do you have this conversation with sponsors? Obviously, there is really good brand recognition for the sponsors. Besides brand recognition, are there other tangible results that they get? What it is is the area of philanthropy. They are using their marketing budget. It’s still philanthropy, but it’s marketing philanthropy. They want to use marketing money to do some good. I don’t want you to reveal any trade secrets, but what is the process for people who want to have that conversation but don’t know where to start?
Daniel: One thing we are pivoting from, or at least adjusting or adapting, is that we want to create a win-win. We come from the mindset that this is a win-win for them. Yes, you have great exposure. We want to show them why sponsoring something will be great exposure for their law firm or business. The email goes out to tens of thousands of people. Their logo will be on that. We show the value there. But we have done a good job this year of showcasing where the money directly goes to and how their money has helped a kid directly for a college scholarship that they wouldn’t otherwise have had. They don’t have money for anything, but this money is tied to that.
A lot of our new revenue streams or events we created this year are tied directly to one of our fundraising goals. We have a college scholarships goal, where we give away almost $50,000 in college scholarships. We put on a virtual poker tournament for college scholarships. That $10,000 you are giving to be the title sponsor will help these kids. We have great videos and promotional material that shows the kids and how this money will help them. This will get your name brand out to thousands of people, but you’re also doing this directly for this kid. We want to show the win-win on both sides.
Hugh: That’s a great answer. I like to point out to the listeners that this is a lawyer. He is not a fundraising professional. However, he can accurately describe the why and what happens. Having board members that understand what it’s about. Daniel, I’m sure that the way you described your board that it’s a high-functioning board. Not any one person does everything. There is buy-in from everybody. Am I right?
Daniel: 100%. Especially with trials opening up, when you’re in trial, you’re nonstop. It’s too much for one person to take on.
Hugh: We’re in an area of fundraising. Jeffrey Fulgham is a professional fundraiser and SynerVision advisor. Jeffrey, do you have a question or comment for our guest today?
Jeffrey Fulgham: Yeah, I have a couple of questions. I appreciate you being on, Daniel. It’s great to hear someone who is doing this not as a fundraising professional but actually raising money, which proves to people that we need to have what I am going to call private sector people doing fundraising because the individual fundraisers can’t do it all. We can strategize. We can advise. We can coach. But we are still only one person. We need a team of people who care and who know how to follow the rules and how to do it right, and who can carry that message out to other people who have connections that we simply don’t have. That’s great.
We’re talking about, especially now coming out of COVID and courtrooms opening up. You guys are busy. I have been fundraising for 30 years. Campaign people come to me and say, “The first two groups we are going to are the law firms and medical practices.” They are lucrative businesses to be in. People are successful. They think that’s the first place they should go to get money. My response to them usually is, “Not exactly,” because of the fact that these are busy people who don’t have a lot of time to sit down and look at those kinds of things.
My question is more related to what is your hook when you try to get people into this organization and onto this ladder? What do you do to get them interested and excited when you are going to people who are as busy and distracted in a good way? How do you get them engaged in what you’re doing to want to commit that time they could give to something else?
Daniel: Great question. In the trial lawyer world, what I have experienced is that the plaintiff trial lawyers have some of the biggest hearts of any trial lawyer out there. We represent the people who go through the toughest times. People have lost loved ones. They have lost a limb. They have been terminated and can’t get another job and are almost homeless. You are representing people in the hardest moments of their lives. You have to have a big heart to do the job we do. You have to have a thick skin, but you have to have a big heart and be compassionate and care. That doesn’t go away when your day ends. You have that makeup.
We go to trial lawyers who are already naturally inclined to be that way. We ask for money, but I think the key is the way we hook our donors is there has been this story in the public that insurance companies and big corporations for the past 20 years have been calling us ambulance chasers, these greedy lawyers, which in my experience, couldn’t be further from the truth. The attorneys I know are the most caring, hardworking individuals who want to make the world a safer place and want to make a difference in people’s lives.
We tell them we need to show the world that we are good people. LATLC is an avenue where we can give our money back and make a difference in our community, but we are also showing the community that we are good people. We are not what these insurance companies and big corporations are saying about us. Once they get behind that fight, and we show them where the money goes and how much it helps people, it’s amazing how much they open up their checkbooks when you show them both sides of the fight.
Jeffrey: Daniel, that’s a great answer. I will concur with you. A good friend of mine from Lynchburg is a trial lawyer and specializes in personal injury and has done very well. He is exactly the kind of person you are talking about and who you are, which is sensitive and caring and wants to pour back into things.
I want to ask you one more quick, unrelated question. This excites me because I like to see things scale out, and I like to see successful projects get duplicated in other communities without reinventing the wheel and making unnecessary mistakes. If you have a good platform/product that can be duplicated in another community in a similar way, it is tremendous if someone can get that leg up. You mentioned talking about replicating this. Have you created a template or book if you will that would allow these organizations to grab onto something that maybe you have trademarked or copyrighted that they could use to move forward?
Daniel: Yes. I love talking about this because it’s been my baby for the last two years. We have a playbook where we have created a PowerPoint presentation that we used for Orange County. This is the first time we’re doing it. It’s been in talks for 10 years. We finally put pen to paper, but we had to create the playbook first. It took us ten years to get to the point where we could hand something off about how to run the admin, how to handle the finances, the website, the marketing, the fundraising. I don’t want them to make the same mistakes. It’s a living, breathing document that we are always changing because we are always learning. We are creating and have created this playbook with the bylaws, the website template, how to fundraise, how to set up the board. We hand it off.
I put it into a presentation where we went down to law firms in Orange County to get them on board. Now they are running with it. They are going to start probably seven years ahead of where we started just because of this playbook. I am a big believer in processes and procedures and putting them into writing into a living document that you can always adjust. Once my presidency is done, I am going to take the lead on expansion and go up to San Francisco and do the same pitch to them. Get the playbook ready for them. Go to the next place. Do the same thing. If you have a good product, and you put pen to paper and hand it off, you can expand and spread, and things hold up.
Jeffrey: That’s cool. That’s going to be your legacy. Where are there more trial lawyers than LA? Maybe New York. But you are definitely the lion in the room for this. That sets the stage for a level of excellence and trust and experience that people would have looking at you all. That’s very cool. Thanks for the response.
Daniel: Great questions, Jeffrey. I appreciate it.
Hugh: Thank you, Jeffrey. Some great answers, too. We put you on the spot here, but you are knocking them down. What’s in the future?
Daniel: We look local obviously. We start local. Local is always #1. State-wise and national. I think what we do in terms of the local is that we look to our donors. Where are we not getting donors? In my opinion, every plaintiff lawyer should donate to our cause. We are a great organization that does a lot, but we are also changing the perception of trial lawyers out there. Justifiably, truthfully, honestly, we are giving back and changing the way people look at trial lawyers. We want to make sure that every plaintiff trial lawyer in Los Angeles is donating to our cause.
Like I have been saying, we expand. We grow this thing because I know there are many trial lawyers throughout the state, throughout the country who want to be part of this and who want to find an avenue to give back in their local communities. That’s what I see happening. I think we will be in multiple states probably in two years.
Hugh: Is there anything I haven’t asked you that you’d like to share with people?
Daniel: Our website is www.LATLC.org. Anyone can donate and be a part of it. If you’re local, we have events on there that we’d love for you to attend.
Hugh: Why did you want to come on our show today? I’m curious.
Daniel: I liked your 31 steps to leadership. I love people that want to train leaders of tomorrow. That is such a great cause to get behind. I really appreciate people like you who want to make people’s lives better. That’s how I feel. That’s my passion. I saw the same in you. I was excited to be asked to be on this.
Hugh: Thank you. That’s 31 Days to becoming a Better Leader at BetterLeader.me. This is my volunteer work and my third career. I do business consulting and leadership training, but this is my philanthropy.
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Daniel, a lot of good stuff today. Thank you for taking the time to be here. What do you want to leave people with today?
Daniel: To put a bow on what we talked about earlier, as a nonprofit leader, if you approach it like it’s a business and understand that the more money you raise, the more you can give back, it will really help grow your charity and make a true difference in people’s lives. In the back of the house stuff, you have to analyze it in that way. Do the right things up front. Invest up front. It will really increase the revenue that you can therefore give back. I can’t stress that enough.
Hugh: Daniel Kramer, a litigator but also a president of this LATLC organization. You can find them at LATLC.org.