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Law student volunteers drive success of Pennsylvania 30 Day Fund offering hope and funds to struggling small businesses

July 19, 2020

The Goat
The Goat

The Pennsylvania 30 Day Fund provides $3,000 forgivable loans to small businesses in need with the help of Penn Law graduate and student volunteers.

Small businesses have been hit especially hard during the COVID-19 pandemic, and a group of University of Pennsylvania Carey Law students and recent graduates continue to be “indispensable” to the Pennsylvania 30 Day Fund, an innovative program that provides financial assistance to small businesses during these unprecedented times, according to the Fund’s co-founder Jeff Bartos. In its short eight-week life, the program has raised over $1.5 million and provided loans to 442 small businesses across the state.

Over 40 percent of the businesses funded are minority-owned, and over 40 percent are women-owned. Together, these small businesses directly employ over 1,300 Pennsylvanians in 41 counties and indirectly support thousands of additional jobs.

“The Board of the Pennsylvania 30 Day Fund is honored and privileged to work with this talented, gracious, and humble cohort of Penn students,” said Bartos. “None of this work, and none of these results would have been possible without the passion, dedication and commitment of our colleagues from Penn, including Professor Michael Knoll, who was instrumental in linking us with JD/MBA students and recent graduates.”

Knoll is the Theodore K. Warner Professor of Law and holds a joint appointment at Wharton as a Professor of Real Estate.

Nine law student coordinators – up from three at the start of the program – and thirty other law student volunteers have played an integral role in the unique program that provides $3,000 forgivable loans to small businesses in need. The students developed a system to track and process the applications that came pouring in, organized a group of fellow law student volunteers to review applications and have made an incredible impact on the Fund’s efforts. Moreover, the law students who serve as board coordinators regularly participate in nearly daily board calls concerning funding decisions.

“These student leaders from Penn built an entire application review and quality control process, recruited and trained over 40 of their fellow Penn students, managed the migration of data from Google Sheets to a proper CRM system, served as trusted advisors on a daily basis to the Board, and managed the review and scoring of over 1600 applications from small businesses across Pennsylvania,” said Bartos. “Oh, and while they were managing all of these tasks, they also managed to graduate and two of the students moved to start their careers in new cities.”

To be eligible for funding, businesses must be for-profit, owned by Pennsylvania residents, have been in business for more than a year, and have between 3 and 30 employees. In the past two months, the Fund has received donations ranging from $3.00 to a challenge grant of $1 million.

The nonprofit Pennsylvania 30 Day Fund is led by Bartos, President of ESB Holdings; Cassandra Bailey, Slice Communications’ CEO; Roger Braunfeld, partner at Royer Cooper Cohen Braunfeld; Jeff Brown, CEO of the ShopRite chain of Brown’s Superstores; Maia Comeau, public affairs consultant and CEO of Comeau and Company; Thomas Nerney, CEO of United States Liability Insurance Group; Tony Payton Jr., a partner at David Scott Partners; Richard Phillips, former Chairman and CEO of Pilot Freight Services; and Mustafa Rashed, CEO of the government relations and communications firm Bellevue Strategies.

Another call for volunteers for the Pennsylvania 30 Day Fund is planned as the program continues to expand.

Pro bono work is an esteemed Penn Law tradition, with law students required to complete 70 hours of law-related pro bono work supervised by an attorney. Read more about pro bono opportunities at the Law School.