What are you currently working on, and how do you personally decide which projects to work on?
I am currently focused on my work as founding ED of Year Up Puget Sound. Our inaugural class – they started the program in 2010 – is graduating on February 3rd. This takes the lion’s share of my waking hours, so it makes deciding what else to work on pretty easy! I have a great leadership team that is helping put the word out in the community about what our program offers, and is connecting us to both other NGOs that serve our population and interested supporters.
What is one obstacle you face in your current job/project, and how do you plan to work around it?
This is no surprise – the biggest obstacle now is building a sustainable funding base. Other CBOs embrace what we provide in the youth development field, so finding clients is not too difficult since the need for our services is so great. There are so many service providers in Puget Sound, and so many generous individuals and foundations, many of whom helped us start up. The ongoing challenge for YUPS and probably every CBO out there is to build sustainable funding and continue to engage our supporters in ways that are truly meaningful to them. I spend most of my time working with my external affairs staff to involve our supporters as deeply as they want to be involved. Our model makes this easy – we embrace everything from a one-time, hour long tutoring session, to clothing donations, to strategic engagements on our Leadership Council and long term Scholars Donors campaign.
What is one book/blog post/article you would recommend to those interested in social betterment?
Just one? I love our founder Gerald Chertavian’s blog. It’s an up-to-the-minute thought conversation on how we as a country are doing to create a just society. The book that has moved me most recently is Leap of Reason, edited by SVP partner Lowell Weiss. It contains an essay by Ty Boyea Robinson, founding ED of Year Up – Washington DC. It’s thought provoking and really pushes us to think about how we measure success in the nonprofit world.
If SVP could solve one problem in King Country, what should it be?
Closing the Opportunity Divide! The Opportunity Divide is the gap that exists between those who have access to opportunities to prosper and those that do not. YU specifically addresses this gap for young adults, but it is a gap that exists for people across the age spectrum. Look at the Occupy movement, the gridlock in the other Washington, and you can see evidence of this divide.
What has been your most interesting experience thus far at SVP?
I’ve loved meeting so many Partners, but I particularly love how new Partners are being involved these days – especially the under 35 set. SVP isn’t effective if it isn’t reaching those who are well-equipped to make change. And frankly, that’s younger people, not those of us who have been in SVP for a decade. Unprecedented times need unprecedented ideas, and those often come from the younger set.
Favorite Seattle hangout?
Bisato on 1st Ave in Belltown. Best food in town.
Name three other Partners that you would recommend us to interview.
Definitely get in touch with CJ Liu. She has a fascinating radio show and has been both planful and thoughtful on how to implement great change. Ask Ariel DosSantos about his journey from nonprofit to school to Microsoft and nonprofit, and across two continents. Janet Levinger has such a wealth of knowledge on all areas of education, from early ed to postsecondary.
How should other like-minded Partners/people get in touch with you?
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.