Goodwin Procter partner Susan Abbott was recently featured as a panelist at the Women’s Network Breakfast hosted by the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce. Abbott joined Jim Gallagher, EVP, General Counsel and CAO of John Hancock Financial, and Mike Sheehan, Chairman of Hill Holliday, on a panel moderated by Santa Sasena, partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers, entitled “How The One Fund Brought the Community Together.”
The panelists discussed their individual roles as well as the leadership from members of the Boston business community in the successful formation of the One Fund Boston, the charitable fund established for the benefit of those most greatly affected by the Boston Marathon bombings in April 2013. Sheehan noted that it was a testament to longstanding relationships between the city of Boston and businesses like Goodwin Procter, Hill Holliday, John Hancock, and PricewaterhouseCoopers, among others, which facilitated the establishment of the One Fund quickly and efficiently. Gallagher said it was important that the tremendous outpouring of generosity be managed properly, and as in any crisis situation, they reached out to those that they knew and trusted in the Boston community to pull it together.
The panel acknowledged that despite the outpouring of support and their many skilled contacts in the Boston area, there were challenges in managing a fund that grew to $60 million in donations less than 90 days after its inception. Abbott explained that one of these challenges was obtaining 501(c)(3) status for the One Fund due to limitations placed on charitable organizations regarding the types of distributions they can make to individuals in the context of disaster relief. Goodwin Procter’s One Fund team, led by Abbott, worked with the IRS to create a legal mechanism within the context of 501(c)(3) which enabled the One Fund to qualify for charitable status. Gallagher noted that Goodwin Procter’s creative work developing a unique legal model in these circumstances could be used to assist others in future tragedies.
Abbott added, “Goodwin Procter has always had a strong commitment to pro bono work, but this particular project was like nothing I’ve ever been involved with in my 13 years at the firm. People dropped everything to assist us with anything we needed.”
Gallagher discussed the importance of the Boston community coming together to heal and help one another. He said his experience working on the One Fund personally helped “to restore his faith in humanity in the face of a terrible tragedy.”
“The One Fund was a tremendous example of resources, goodwill and talented people coming together to do good. No one said no, and that is a testament to the community we have in Boston,” said Sheehan.