From the Blog

Welcome to Brooklyn Cooperative’s blog!  We decided to start a blog as a way to introduce ourselves. Credit unions aren’t as familiar to most people as banks, though our services are likely better suited to their needs. Hopefully, through this blog, we will show that.

Who Works at Nonprofits?

Posted by Samira Rajan @Dec 27 2019

Another guest blogger!  Zade Haobsh (pictured on the right) has been part of Grow Brooklyn’s Free Tax Prep program for 4 tax seasons already. We thought his reflections on our work would be a nice way to end this year.

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of riding all the way up to Harlem’s Floridita, a fifty year old establishment right off of the West Side Highway on W 125th St for Ariva’s 16th Annual “Toast to Ariva”.  Ariva, like Grow Brooklyn, has been operating a substantial free tax program for many years.

While catching up with colleagues from the Free Tax Prep world, I was introduced to two nonprofit professionals from China visiting through a State Department program to help share information and best practices of nonprofit work in the United States. As China’s middle class is growing seemingly exponentially, the country’s need to reach those left behind has opened up a window of opportunity for a burgeoning nonprofit industry. Speaking with the two individuals allowed me to reflect on our work in Brooklyn in a new light.

All of us (except Cathie)!

One focus was volunteer engagement. Why do volunteers participate in nonprofit work? Grow Brooklyn’s Free Tax Prep program relies on close to 200 volunteers who spend on average three hours per week preparing tax returns for their neighbors. Many of these volunteers have dedicated five, seven, even 10 years to the program! They may have started wanting only to build up their resumes. While enjoying the free pizza, they connect with their clients and fellow volunteers — before they know it, they’re being recognized for their fifth consecutive year of service! A sense of community and team spirit can be a rare find during a time when individualism and greed seem to take precedence. 

Another place we see skilled professionals opting for nonprofit work over their other choices is legal services. Grow Brooklyn’s Foreclosure Prevention and Protect Your Treasure programs have been keeping New Yorkers in their homes for more than a decade. Meanwhile, Beijing’s population is over 20 million people! That’s a lot of people likely needing affordable legal services, and also a large number willing to provide them.

Going to the event, and getting to meet these individuals helped me to realize how grateful I am to be in Brooklyn, where nonprofits have been long integrated into our lives; whether one works for a nonprofit, volunteers, utilizes services, or donates!

Samira Rajan is the longest-serving employee of Brooklyn Coop and currently the Director of both the credit union and Grow Brooklyn. She started here as an Americorp*VISTA for a single year of service back when we were Bushwick Coop in 2001, got hooked by the challenge of building a community financial institution, and hasn’t left.