April 14, 2016
Justice Connect Not-for-profit Law is a specialist legal service established to provide free and low cost legal assistance to not-for-profit community organisations. Not-for-profit Law ‘helps the helpers’ by providing tailored legal information, advice and training to not-for-profit community organisations. By relieving the burden of legal issues, organisations can better focus their time and energy on achieving their mission.
Anna Lyons is a Senior Lawyer and Trainer with Not-for-profit Law and a participant in the Crunch 2016. Anna shared her experience working in the not-for-profit law space, the plans to grow and scale the training services of Not-For-profit Law and working through the Crunch accelerator program so far.
What drew you to working in the not-for-profit law space?
I first came to Justice Connect through a six-month secondment from a commercial law firm in 2007. From there, I returned to the law firm and worked in its charity law and pro bono teams. I then spent some time volunteering overseas and working for Justice Connect Homeless Law, before returning to working with not-for-profits.
Legal work that still has a connection with creating a positive difference, either for community groups or for individual clients, really appeals to me. The law that relates to not-for-profits is always changing and is extremely varied – it’s a very interesting time to be working in this area.
What are some of the main legal requirements and services that the not-for-profits you’re working with are looking for?
A key challenge for many not-for-profits is keeping up with changes to the law. Not-for-profits need to comply with a broad range of laws and regulations and often these can be quite complicated. A very popular training module that we offer looks at legal issues around managing volunteers. We also provide training in issues to consider when starting a not-for-profit, privacy law, tax concessions and mergers, and more.
One of our most frequently requested trainings is governance for not-for-profit boards. A lot of groups have high turnover of their board members, so there’s always new people coming into governance roles who might not understand what the law requires of them in performing their role.
What prompted you to look at a Crunch program?
We’ve been offering customised and in-house training for 4 years in Victoria and in 2015 we expanded this training into New South Wales. We’ve recently received funding to expand Not-for-profit Law’s services into all states and territories of Australia, so we’re identifying ways to scale our model so that we can deliver training in new markets.
Crunch is also helping us to reflect on how we could enhance and expand our training offerings, for example through considering new training modules or partnerships with non-legal trainers.
How does the launch of the Justice Connect Not-For-Profit Law national online hub also fit with the plans to grow and scale?
The Information Hub is a fantastic resource for not-for-profits. It’s a perfect complement to training as it has resources addressing all of the legal issues that can come up in the lifecycle of a not-for-profit group organisation. Often in our trainings we’ll only have time to touch on issues briefly and the Information Hub is always available for groups that need further information.
The Information Hub is also a key part of our national rollout. As groups start to use the online resources, we hope that we’ll also identify opportunities to support them further through face-to-face training or webinars.
With everything going on, how have you found making the time and space to step out of day to day operations to work on the development of your enterprise in an accelerator program?
It’s been really good doing this in an accelerated format because some of the issues we’re looking at Crunch have been on our minds for a while and it’s encouraged us to take the time to look carefully at our model and business plan. We’ve been fortunate in having an enterprise that has grown very organically but the Crunch process has helped us to understand that there is plenty of potential to scale further. It’s also been fantastic to go through the process with the support of Social Traders and our mentors from Australia Post.
What’s been the most interesting thing you’ve learnt through the Crunch so far?
It’s been very inspiring and interesting to hear from Crunch alumni who have taken their enterprises through Crunch and are now trading successfully. It’s great to see the end result of their work in Crunch. It was also useful to how much time and energy they invested in the process, as it gives a realistic view of what it takes to launch a successful social enterprise.
How have you found working alongside other social entrepreneurs in the cohort?
It’s been incredibly helpful. So many of the conversations we’ve had have been around identifying similarities between our enterprises. There are many commonalities that we’ve been able to work through together. It’s also very powerful to have other social entrepreneurs on hand to ask probing questions and give their suggestions; the peer-to-peer learning has been invaluable.