Jess is the owner of Birken Law Office PLLC, a boutique law firm serving nonprofits and charitable entities with their compliance and operational issues. Jess empowers nonprofits to achieve their mission by doing things right. She connects clients with the right tools, right coaching and right contacts. Ms. Birken is a nationally recognized attorney both for her service and understanding of the nonprofit & charitable sector as well as for her innovative subscription based law firm model. Listen to Jess' podcast Charity Therapy on your favorite podcast player.
BA, Sociology, University of Minnesota, Twin Cities
JD, Mitchell Hamline School of Law, Magna Cum Laude
MA, Nonprofit Management, Hamline University School of Business
Ms. Birken is the former CEO & Managing Partner at Urban Birken PLLC, a boutique firm that focused on serving the nonprofit community and started her own firm in 2016. Jess has extensive non-legal experience working inside nonprofit organizations for most of her career prior to law school as well as after attaining her masters.
Before becoming a private practice attorney, Ms. Birken served inside a mid-sized national nonprofit organization, Pheasants Forever. In that role she managed ~$50,000,000 in state and federal government grants and worked on hundreds of conservation real estate transactions. Jess is deeply experienced in the reality of federal grants management across the entire life cycle. Ms. Birken has a deep understanding of the norms and best practices of the nonprofit sector, as well as the legal and regulatory environment these organizations exist within. This expertise was developed through her academic work obtaining a Masters in Nonprofit Management, in the work environment and through private practice experience.
When starting a new nonprofit, most founders are focused on their mission. Who are they going to be? What kind of work will they do? What impact are they going to make? But those aren’t the only things nonprofit founders need to decide. They also need to decide on the structure of the nonprofit and how it will function, too.
Here’s the thing: I wish my clients understood that a nonprofit's public charity status is NOT everything. It might be necessary and important, sure. It helps communicate to donors that the nonprofit is a public charity....But it’s certainly not the end-all, be-all of a successful nonprofit.
Working with nonprofit organizations, I deal with a LOT of people problems. And it makes sense, right? When you ask a group of people passionate about a cause (aka, the board of directors) to come together to make collective decisions…disagreements and confrontations are inevitable.
Feeding Our Future (FOF) was a Minnesota food assistance nonprofit that was awarded millions in federal grant funds in the past few years. FOF passed those funds through to other small organizations and businesses to provide food to children, primarily BIPOC and immigrant children in the Twin Cities and beyond.
So, what does this have to do with nonprofits, you ask? Well, as a lawyer for nonprofits, I've seen lots of organizations go through the process of selecting new leaders – and not all of them do it right, especially when an insider is involved. This Jeopardy host situation reminded me of those cases.
Dissolution can be a happy occasion (yay, we accomplished our mission!) or it can be very sad and emotional. But no matter what brings a nonprofit to that point, the decision to dissolve is a big one. And, to the surprise of some folks, that decision is just the very beginning of what can be a very long process
As schools are called off for the rest of the year, toilet paper flies off the shelves, and shelter-in-place orders are announced, anxieties are high. Everyone is worried about money, jobs, health, how to stay sane in the coming weeks – or at least I'm pretty sure it's not just me! And then there's another layer of worry – the worry that comes with running a small nonprofit in the midst of an international crisis.
Lately I've been noticing a lot of chatter on the internet about how you know which charities to donate to. There seems to be a general suspicion that nonprofits of all sizes who are seeking donations are swindling people out of their hard-earned money. Or at least that you can't trust these organizations and that it's easy to make the wrong decision.
I work with a lot of nonprofit founders, and all of them have a certain kind of pride in their work. And they should! Lots of people have ideas, but there's not that many people out there who are willing to put their time, effort, knowledge, and money into it. We need entrepreneurial founders in the nonprofit sector.
The reality is, starting and running a nonprofit is more than just the mission-driven work. Taking the time to understand the organizing documents, the Articles of Incorporation and the Bylaws, will help the organization going forward.
Rachael Frost, Master Inv. (ret.) is a VIOLENCE RECOGNITION & RESPONSE SPECIALIST with over 20 years of experience in law enforcement practices and procedures investigation, domestic violence-related persons' investigation and policies, grants, and program development. She was the Riverside Sheriff’s Department’s first expert witness in domestic violence and developed a self-sustaining program in the Department to encourage future witnesses and abuse specialists.
Ms. Frost is currently a Sexual Assault Expert Cadre of Experts for End Violence Against Women International and a grant writer for more than $4 million in grant monies and programs to develop these areas of recognition, investigation, and response. She is also a Masters staff member for the Training Institute of Strangulation Prevention, works with the Communications Committee for the Association of Threat Assessment Professionals, and is Chief Financial Officer for the non-profit Kids Court, which addresses trauma concerns of children who are involved in the court system.
Ms. Frost evaluates and reviews Law Enforcement Policies and Procedures having worked in personnel and policy cases with Internal Affairs and as a program and policy developer. Her expertise has been used in high-profile cases involving law enforcement procedures. She specializes in case preparation for Intimate Partner Violence Issues in Family, Civil, and Criminal court, including how domestic violence may affect children and law enforcement responses and investigation practices into abuse and threat cases. She is the Abuse and Law Enforcement Investigations Specialist hired by attorneys across the nation.
Ms. Frost has the direct experience needed in court; working in the field with victims of abuse and in Internal Affairs thoroughly investigating policy violations. Comfortable on the witness stand, she has testified numerous times as an expert witness for prosecution and defense, respondent and plaintiff in Family, Criminal, and Civil cases, because true testimony does not change dependent on your client. She has conducted hundreds of investigations into abuse and law enforcement related cases. Rachael Frost - Expert Witness Website.
Expert witness services in the areas of law enforcement response to:
During the past several years, the 1995-1997 Centers for Disease Control and San Diego Kaiser Adverse Childhood Experiences study (ACEs) pioneered by Dr. Vincent Felitti has become a growing topic among those who work with survivors of trauma and abuse. If you are not familiar with the study, ACEs measured different impacts that childhood exposure to trauma(such as divorce, parent/mentor substance abuse, witnessing or experiencing physical or sexual abuse, etc.) can have on adults' future health…
Understanding domestic violence as an employer, family member, coworker, Human Resources professional, friend, law enforcement officer, teacher, and more, is extremely important so you can remain an active support person for a victim looking to leave an abusive situation.
As threat assessment professionals, corporations, schools, and agencies, how do we effectively address intimate partner violence when each story is different, and each ending may depend upon us? Let us explore four basic steps to creating a successful abuse recognition and response program for in person and virtual employees and clients.