Meet New Jersey State Bar Foundation’s Mary Jean Barnes, Director of Administration and Grant Programs

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September 25, 2019
Contact: Wendy Solomon
Mary Jean Barnes is the New Jersey State Bar Foundation’s (NJSBF) new director of administration and grant programs where she manages the organization’s day-to-day operations, finances, board relations, grant programs and fundraising.
A lawyer and former executive at nonprofit organizations where she was active in development, Barnes plans to focus on fundraising at the Foundation, the charitable and educational arm of the New Jersey State Bar Association.
“We are delighted that Mary Jean agreed to join our team at the Foundation,” Executive Director Angela C. Scheck said. “She brings a deep knowledge of the New Jersey legal community as well as an understanding of the nonprofit world, in addition to having run significant fundraising initiatives. Her skill set is a perfect fit for us, and we look forward to her helping our Bar Foundation grow and reach even more New Jersey residents in fulfilling its public education mission.”
The largest source of the NJSBF’s roughly $1 million-$2 million budget comes from IOLTA (Interest on Lawyers Trust Accounts), but as that organization’s funding rises and falls, so does the Foundation’s. Although the budget had a slight increase last year, it once was as high as $4 million but took a hit after the recession, Barnes said.
“There had not been a real focus on fundraising in the past because the IOLTA funding has been so robust. Now the Foundation really wants to grow it,” she said.
Barnes said the Foundation will look for other funding sources in addition to IOLTA.
“The Foundation is unique in that it is both a funding organization---it gives out money--- but is also a direct provider of services to the public, which is a big part of what they do. We need to fund those services,” Barnes said.
In 2018-2019, for example, the Foundation awarded more than $300,000 to Rutgers Camden Law School and Seton Hall Law School to support their mortgage foreclosure defense clinics. It also gave more than $131,750 to nonprofit organizations, such as The Arc of New Jersey for its Equal Justice Conference, Bergen County YWCA for Title IX Trainings and Covenant House Youth Advocacy Center.
Increased funding would help pay for the Foundation’s robust programs and publications, including its mock trial competitions that thousands of students in elementary through high school have participated in for nearly for 40 years; training thousands of educators on topics such as bullying, bias and the Holocaust; and publications on law-related topics and diversity that reach thousands of students in elementary, middle and high school.
Barnes said the Foundation job is the perfect fit because it leverages her experience with the mahogany-and-marble legal world and roll-up-your-sleeves world of charitable nonprofits.
A native New Jerseyan and a graduate of Northeastern University School of Law, Barnes practiced law for 20 years--- the last 10 practicing corporate and business law where she closed multi-million-dollar deals for clients at Coughlin Duffy in Morristown.
In 2015, Barnes left law to work as executive director of Dress for Success Northern New Jersey, which helps women develop the skills they need to find jobs, and often known for the donated business suits it gives to women.
Barnes, a longtime volunteer for the organization, was one of those women who donated one of her gently-used business suits.
“It’s very important to me to give back to the community and particularly to support women in their careers,” she said.
At Dress for Success, Barnes reinvigorated and expanded the organization and oversaw its record-breaking fundraisers that enabled it to serve more clients in its history.
After several years at Dress for Success, Barnes found her next challenge as development director at Creature Comfort Pet Therapy in Morris Plains, where demand for the small organization’s services was high but it needed help expanding.