Venture House recently opened a new facility in Staten Island. Nearly everyday, a busload of members heads to the new clubhouse, volunteering their time on tasks like fixing furniture and constructing a reception desk.
Surprisingly, there are rarely workspace boundaries between staff and members because everyone is treated equally in the judgement-free zone. The relationships are horizontal.
Moreover, there are currently four members sitting on Venture House’s Board of Directors. Even Douglas’ office is often open to staff or members who may come in to hang out or work for a few minutes.
Young Jo also appreciates the extent in which Venture House gets involved in it members’ lives. For instance, as part of a housing program through which Venture House subsidizes 90 apartments around the city, a staff employee makes quarterly visits to apartments to make sure everything is in working order, from sinks to locks.
“Venture House is not just about one aspect of a person’s mental and physical well being, I think it’s a holistic approach,” he said. “It’s all these moving parts and they are able to help people on a microscopic level.
“It’s not just the outer edges of making sure this person isn’t arrested, it’s literally having someone checking and helping to replace a refrigerator handle,” Young Jo added. “I didn’t want to get involved with a nonprofit where everything is so artificial. What Venture House is doing is right, and that’s so impressive and it’s deep.”
For the past 15 years, Young Jo has worked with some of the biggest law firms, doing everything from research to strategy to analysis. With a background in internal consulting for Fortune 500 companies, he can lend his expertise and advice to help strengthen Venture House’s impact on the community.
He views the partnership between himself and Venture House as an opportunity to bring his “court vision,” such as seeing things from afar and helping to identify certain needs.
Douglas is eager to use Young Jo’s expertise, adding “even though we are a nonprofit, we need to think in terms of being a business,” such as discussing strategy, growth and taking calculated risks. Having a board member in the business community also allows the nonprofit to utilize relationships with various businesses and corporations around the borough. Young Jo can also assist Douglas’ team in “digging for money” and finding funds in areas that Venture House may not be well versed in.
“Someone in the business community can help plan strategically for how we manage time and efficiency,” she added.
Venture House’s involvement in its members’ lives doesn’t come cheap for the organization, and that’s why fundraising is an absolute necessity for them. Most of their funding comes from the city and state, but it’s up to Venture House to raise a certain amount of money to stay afloat and accomplish a variety of projects.
For a smaller nonprofit like Venture House, Young Jo recommended making minor tweaks in order to create an exponential impact. Both Douglas and Young Jo are excited about future programs, including one directed at young adults aged 18 to 21 years old.
“That’s the most vulnerable time in a person’s life,” Douglas said. “If someone has mental illness, that’s the age group that it tends to surface.
If Venture House if able to catch these kids in their teens, Young Jo said, that’s when they have a real chance of shaping their lives. Venture House is planning on doing more outreach and applying for a grant to provide funding for the program.
Since the Queens Chamber networking event where they met, Young Jo is no longer an outsider looking in at Venture House. He’s a part of the fabric of the organization, and with Douglas they can mold a future for the nonprofit and see it transform into something bigger and better, while still maintaining its integrity.
“The beauty of a board is to share ideas and get our own ideas based on experiences,” Young Jo said. “For Venture House, it’s literally a matter of time before the impact and the outreach is going to very big.”