Today we’d like to introduce you to Brian Rosenbaum.
Brian, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
In June 2016, I got an email from David Kietzman (the Kevin Bacon of the nonprofit sector — if you work in the field, it’s guaranteed you’re only a few degrees of separation from him), sharing that he was stepping down from the Board of Directors of Young Nonprofit Professionals Network Los Angeles (YNPN LA), and that as part of his commitment to the organization, he was looking for someone to replace him.
I was immediately interested. My Little Brother from Big Brothers Big Sisters had just aged out of the program (after ten years together!), and I was five years removed from getting my Master’s in Social Work. I was ready for a new volunteer commitment to sink my teeth into, and ready for a new way to build my personal brand and professional repertoire.
I also had some history with the organization. YNPN LA works to build a stronger nonprofit sector by connecting, empowering, and supporting emerging, mission-driven professionals. I was familiar with their networking mixers and had attended a few at times when I was job-searching.
The reality is, so many young people who want to make a difference at a nonprofit are thrown into the open waters of the working world after graduating with little more than floaties. And when you’re overworked, underpaid, burdened by student loans, experiencing vicarious traumatization, and lacking a lot of the hard and soft skills needed to be successful in the nonprofit sector, it’s no surprise why turnover and burnout rates are so high.
I had experienced this myself. I was fired from not only my first nonprofit job out of college…but my second one as well. I lacked a community to support me, the understanding of how to navigate a professional environment, and most importantly the self-awareness and skill to course-correct when things were headed south. Had I known about a resource like YNPN LA, maybe I could have avoided those terminations or bounced back quicker.
Little did I know that within three months, I would be serving as Secretary, and by January 2017, I would be instated as the newest Board President of the organization.
Today YNPN LA is operating at full steam. We host monthly nonprofit networking mixers (always free — because nobody should have to pay to meet awesome people), monthly professional development (PD) workshops for our members (always just $10 for nonmembers — because when you’re making $36k annually, every dollar matters), and occasional Nonprofit Neighborhood Hangouts, which range from hikes and brunches to supportive spaces for fundraising professionals. We have more than 100 paid members, an active board and committee structure, and a strong volunteer base.
The sky is the limit for this organization. Ten dollars or less for a PD workshop facilitated by an expert in the field makes us the best kept secret in this sector. I want every Director of Human Resources, every manager with a shoestring PD budget, and every senior graduating with a psych, poli sci, and sociology degree to know about us.
Has it been a smooth road?
Managing an all-volunteer organization is tough. We’re a working board, and our Board of Directors is made up of folks from across the sector. We run this organization during our lunch breaks, evenings, and weekends. That basically makes me a volunteer manager. Fortunately, that’s also my day job at the United Way of Greater Los Angeles — but it doesn’t make it easier.
Each of our Board Members has their individual capacity and lives to manage, so at times accountability and rapport have presented challenges. We can create action plans and have a lot of Type-A personalities, but at the end of the day, this is a volunteer position and when a big project at work lands on your plate, something like this might be the first thing to tumble off. Fortunately, our Board Members are also all kinds of brilliant and deeply committed to their jobs and this sector, so where we may lack in brawn, we make up for with brains and heart.
So, as you know, we’re impressed with Young Nonprofit Professionals Network Los Angeles – tell our readers more, for example what you’re most proud of and what sets you apart from others.
I love what we do, and more importantly, how we do it. No other organization in Los Angeles is focused on bringing together emerging, mission-driven professionals, and is committed to making it affordable for the entry-level case worker making $32k annually…with $25k in student debt.
I love that we define our community how we do. We believe we are all constantly “emerging” into our new selves. Whether you’re emerging out of college, into mid-career, into management, or into the nonprofit sector, we’re here for you.
Additionally, anyone can be “mission-driven.” The majority of our event attendees are already working at nonprofits, but we also see accountants, graphic designers, consultants, HR professionals, even lawyers at our events. This is a community of people who want to make the world a better place, and if you can contribute to the community and gain something from it, our doors are open to you.
I love the tone that we create at our events and within our Board. I remember being pretty nervous about attending my first mixer (and I’m an extrovert!), but I also remember meeting really cool, interesting people, and feeling welcome and supported that first time. We continue to create that sense of space through best practices like name tags and being “connectors” at events, as well as by often having some kind of program or structure at our mixers, such as speed networking, peer resume review, or my favorite, “Genius Hour,” where we break attendees into small groups and give each group a nonprofit dilemma to solve (often based on our own professional experiences). The collaboration, ideas, and leadership that come out of those sessions is inspiring and super fun.
Let’s touch on your thoughts about our city – what do you like the most and least?
LA has been my home since 2003 when I started at UCLA. I love that the nonprofit sector and volunteerism in this city aren’t just seen as an “extra” in the cast, they have a star role. My friends, whether they work in entertainment, aerospace, manufacturing, or tech, all know of organizations that they’ve volunteered with through work or in their community.
I suppose that’s also what kills me about our city — that we need so many nonprofits to fill the gaps in our systems. The gap that keeps me up at night is the 59,000 of our neighbors who slept on the streets, in cars, and in shelters last night. It’s a number that has grown 12% in LA County and 16% in LA City in the last year, and it’s a direct result of our exorbitant cost of living. Our housing crisis is our homeless crisis. But the solution is simple: homes end homelessness. We need to build more homes faster, by cutting through the bureaucratic red tape and activating every neighborhood in this County to say Yes to housing, Yes in my backyard.
That’s why I’m so proud to work at the United Way, overseeing general and corporate volunteerism. Our Everyone In campaign is actively mobilizing the vast majority of Angelenos who want to see this problem solved, to lift up their voices over the loud but small group of folks who want to push the problem somewhere else. We created this problem, and now it’s our duty to fix it. You can’t move a big oak table on your own. We all need to gather around it, and when we lift together, we can do it.
- YNPN LA Base Membership: $30/year (3 PD workshops, online job board, 1 free +1 to a PD)
- YNPN LA Standard Membership: $50/year (6 PD workshops, online job board, members only website, 3 free +1s to PDs)
- YNPN LA Premium Membership: $60/year (12 PD workshops, online job board, members only website, 6 free +1s to PDs)
- Post to our Online Job Board ($10 per post)
- Website: www.ynpnla.org
- Email: email@example.com