Tom Bruce, the Director of the LII (USA) - the original recipe LII, will join us via videoconference to present on issues of sustainability for open access legal publishers. 

The notes are attached. 





The usual disclaimers

●     What I’ll describe today are things we’ve done here at the LII

●     Some will work differently or not at all because

○     The US is not Africa

○     We have high traffic volumes

○     We are in a very big place, and very remote from our audience

What is sustainability?

“Sustainability” has become a kind of code word, but that’s not all there is to it. 

●     Donors increasingly see what they do as an investment that will produce a return.

●     Not a return in money, but a return in results.

●     Usually, those results will take much longer than the “lifespan” of the donation to produce.

Sustainable organizations create three kinds of value:

●     Economic value.  That’s what we’ve just been talking about.

○     Revenue generation

○     Revenue diversification

●     Social value.

○     Generating content that the audience needs and wants

○     Generating content with measurable impacts

○     Engaging the audience as community

●     Organizational capacity.

○     Adaptive capacity.

○     Leadership capacity.

○     Resource allocation

Sustainability is hard for LIIs

●     There is much more enthusiasm for establishment than there is for maintenance.

○     It’s easier to get money to put some documents up than it is to get money to maintain and grow the collection.

●     Supply chains are fragile

○     Did I say supply chain?  Sounds awfully corporate.

○     What else would you call the flow of documents that you deliver? It’s the raw material you use to make what you make.

●     Hiring and firing is difficult

●     Continual managing of relationships is essential

●     Messaging can be complex

●     It is hard for operations-oriented people to think about relationships, strategies, and marketing.

Sustainable organizations

I’m going to spend proportionately less time on these, but I do want to mention a few aspects of social value and organizational capacity that I think have a unique slant in the LII context.

Social value: things to remember

●     Social value is in the eye of the beholder, not yours

○     In order to create value for an audience, you have to know who they are and what they want.

                                     ■There is probably more than one

                                     ■Set up and use your analytics. Do surveys.  Ask.

○     People do legal research for a purpose, not as an end in itself.

○     Donor organizations (and committed people like us) worry about freedom and democracy. Your audience has more immediate things to worry about.

●     Engagement is difficult but crucial.

Organizational capacity: things to remember

●     Being adaptive is hard.

○     Do regular SWOT analyses.

○     Think about

                                     ■supply chains

                                     ■key relationships

                                     ■key personnel

●     Fulfilling your mission depends on things that it can be easy to throw off the boat when operations get difficult.  But that’s when you need them the most.

○     People

○     Relationships with suppliers

○     Relationships with key audience components

Sustainable business models


“The job of a successful program director is to maximize income while minimizing commitments” --  William Y. Arms

Revenue: a three-legged stool

●     Revenue earned from core competencies

○     IT services for your audience (eg. websites and blogs for lawyers)

○     IT services for your suppliers (document conversion; court-records systems)

○     Research/question-answering services

●     Revenue earned from online presence

○     Dues and subscriptions

○     Sponsorships

○     Tiered service models

○     Directory services

○     Online advertising

●     Revenue donated by sponsors and supporters

○     Pre-designated donations


                                     ■Designated gifts

○     Undesignated income


It is important to balance these.

●     Too much pursuit of earned income, and you lose your mission.

●     Too much donated income that comes with strings attached, and you lose your independence (and probably your mission too, because programs become hard to kill).

Economic value: important things to remember

●     no single one of these sources is going to carry the entire organization

○     nor should it. Monoculture is a problem for organizations as well as farmers.

●     revenue sources will shift in relative importance over time

●     some revenue-generating activities only make sense for a federation of LIIs

●     some jobs aren’t worth taking, and some grants aren’t worth getting.





A few things I’ve found useful, for you to check out later.


Knight Foundation report on sustainability for community-funded newspapers.  Closest thing I’ve found to LIIs, at least in the US.

●     Overview here:

●     Important bits here:


Resources for nonprofits:

●     BoardSource :

●     TechSoup:



●     Wikipedia:

●     Nice worked example:


Bloggers to follow:

●     Guy Kawasaki :

●     Beth Kanter :

●     Seth Godin:

●     Kivi Miller:


○     with a great resource guide :

●     Katya:



Tom: ; @trbruce ;