Your Life. Your Legacy.
Conversations with Philanthropic Leaders
Beth Bergman, a partner at the boutique law firm Bergman and Allderdice, represents non-profits in all areas, including community and economic development. The firm’s goal is to support the self-sustainability of community-based non-profits.
Think Private. Act Public.
When people think non-profit, they often think “can’t make money.” Newsflash: non-profits can make money—and they should, as long as it’s related to their mission. The misconception around non-profits is one Beth Bergman has spent a lot of time fighting against. Her mantra is “Think private; act public,” and she encourages the non-profit organizations she represents to adopt an “evergreening” mentality, so that each client can become entrepreneurial and self-sustaining for the long term.
Beth always knew she wanted to work for the public interest, but she didn’t know what form that would take or how she’d cover all the issues she cared about—health, politics, and the environment. Her solution: law school, augmented by clerking for a federal judge and jobs with the ACLU and Mayor Tom Bradley, where she focused on homelessness and affordable housing. From there, it was a smooth transition to her own L.A.-based practice.
Beth credits these early experiences with her current enthusiasm. She shares that “all of our firm’s clients are mission-based and committed to making a difference in people’s lives—an uncommon opportunity within a law practice.” Her practice helps form new non-profits and guides non-profits through the creation of new spaces, charter schools, community centers, jazz halls, hospitals, and domestic violence shelters. She’s always looking to help organizations contribute positively to many communities in Southern California.
But to ensure these contributions continue, Beth must be an advocate, a guidance counselor, a promoter, and an activist for the difficult and ongoing work that community development requires. It’s particularly challenging for non-profits now, she says, because the philanthropic world is becoming “more grassroots, decentralized, transparent, engaging. It’s turning a vertical structure horizontal. Allowing the donor to look inside the belly of the beast, becoming a co-creator. The likes of crowdfunding, Network for Good, and Kickstarter are here to stay. The goal is to create a space for the smaller ask, to create a sense of abundance of support.”
Non-profit funding is moving away from the traditional model of galas and chicken dinners. Beth believes non-profits will have to diversify their funding, embrace small donors, and recruit supporters and friends who can be advocates of their organization.
To help with this sea change, Beth wants to share her thoughts and ideas beyond her client base. She’s currently at work on a book about earned income strategies and hopes to return to teaching at some point. However, her plate is currently full: she plays in a string quartet and is currently a Girl Scout troop leader. For now, she’s happy being an attorney for the public good.