Pro Bono Consulting at Work

Dispatch from Jewish LearningWorks

When Jewish LearningWorks – formerly the Bureau of Jewish Education – decided it wanted to sell a building that it owned in San Francisco last year, the organization knew to reach out to the Pro Bono Consulting Practice at the Jewish Community Federation and Endowment Fund. “We had no idea how to sell a building,” said Mara Kassoff, COO of Jewish LearningWorks, “but thank goodness for the Pro Bono Consulting Practice. We couldn’t have done this without them.”

The Federation’s Pro Bono Consulting Practice connects highly skilled professionals with strategic projects that improve operations and heighten impact at partner organizations. Over 375 professionals in the Federation’s network, with expertise in marketing, IT, law, accounting, real estate, business, HR, and finance, make up its pool of pro bono consultants.

Mara Kassoff

Jewish LearningWorks, a prominent educational resource for the Bay Area Jewish community for over 100 years, has owned several buildings in the area since the 1960s and ‘70s and, while the organization houses its offices in one, the other buildings were rented out to tenants. “But, in the end, “Mara explained, “we’re a Jewish education nonprofit – we’re not in the rental business.” She added that, after much deliberation, the board came to the conclusion that selling the additional property would allow Jewish LearningWorks to strengthen itself financially, including building an endowment capable of supporting its educational efforts for many years to come.

The question, then, was how to go about selling it.

Eric Starr

Enter the Pro Bono Consulting Practice, which connected Jewish LearningWorks with Eric Starr, a real estate attorney and partner at Starr Finley LLP in San Francisco. And, by coincidence, it turned out that Eric once served on the board of Jewish LearningWorks – back in the 1990s. “I couldn’t believe it,” Eric said. “I had been wanting to become more involved in the Jewish community again, and wanting to reconnect with Jewish LearningWorks, and here was this opportunity for me to do just that.”

“Eric was amazing. He was so helpful,” Mara shared enthusiastically. Eric led Jewish LearningWorks through the entire process, from understanding the value of the building, to working with the sellers and buyers, to trouble-shooting any issues that came up, to educating the board on the various steps and decisions made along the way.

“It’s an important thing to give back to the community in this way,” Eric said. “To be able to offer specific services to a great organization. I was really happy to do it.”

The sale went through, and the partnership between Jewish LearningWorks and Eric Starr proved to be a tremendous success. Mara noted that, “We’ve already taken advantage of the Pro Bono Consulting Practice for other, smaller projects, and we will definitely use it again in the future.” David Waksberg, the CEO of Jewish LearningWorks, added that “the Federation is in a unique position” to be able to offer these kinds of services. It has the potential to make tremendous impact connecting the organizations that can benefit from pro bono consulting with the services of skilled experts in the community who, like Eric Starr, are eager to give back.

Would you like to be a pro bono consultant? Share your skills. Are you a nonprofit seeking assistance? Request pro bono help.

For more information about the Pro Bono Practice, contact Bab Freiberg, Director of Strategic Consulting.


August 07, 2015


Noa Silver