Member Spotlight: An E-Interview with Jean Dorak

By Denman Wall

Since becoming a member of NYSAE nearly 10 years ago, I have had the sincere pleasure of getting to know the most respected and talented professionals, not just in the association and nonprofit industry, but anywhere! The things I have learned about through NYSAE and shared with the membership and association community have certainly helped to define my career as an association professional.

No doubt, these people have also influenced others and I thought, “We really need to highlight some of the folks who make NYSAE a great organization.” With that in mind, the following interview, conducted entirely via email, will be the first in a series of member spotlights for InView.

Jean Dorak, Program and Membership Manager, Association for a Better New York (ABNY) and chair, NYSAE Next Generation Shared Interest Group (Next Gen).

Now then, from time to time, an organization needs a real fire-starter. When I first met Jean Dorak, Program and Membership Manager for Association for a Better New York (ABNY), I knew that the future of NYSAE was indeed in good hands. As the leader of the Next Generation Shared Interest Group, Jean has raised the bar on how this organization fosters the future of our association.

And now that interview…

Denman Wall: Hi Jean, so glad to have you as a member of NYSAE and a leader of the Next Generation Shared Interest Group. Your contributions as a member and volunteer have paved the way to helping NYSAE succeed in its mission. Tell our readers just a bit about what attracted you to the association and nonprofit profession.

Jean Dorak: I joined the association and nonprofit realm because I greatly care about helping others and the scrappy can-do attitude 501 C3’s and 501 C6’s typically have. In college I had been searching for a way to improve even just one person’s life. I interned at an association and it just seemed like the best fit for my personality and ambitions.

Denman: Thanks! Tell us about the organization you are working for these days, its mission and what you're working on these days.

Jean: I work for the Association for a Better New York (ABNY) as the Program and Membership Manager. ABNY’s mission is to foster dialogue and create connections among the city’s top private and public sector organizations in order to make New York City a better place to live, work, and visit. My role at ABNY is to maintain and cultivate our membership base, plan and execute our Power Breakfasts which are neutral platforms for elected officials to address NYC’s leaders, and to assist with our 501C3, the ABNY Foundation. Every day is different and it’s so exciting to have a variety of roles and responsibilities. This is my dream job for my age.

Denman: Thanks for that. How did you learn about and what lead you to become involved in NYSAE, first as a member, then a volunteer leader?

Jean: I learned about NYSAE through my previous job at the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) Foundation, through my mentor and boss Valerie Cammiso. She suggested I attend the first Next Generation Leadership Group meeting and told me about her experiences in the Executive Women in Nonprofits group. She encouraged me to get as involved as humanly possible with NYSAE, as a means of professional development and networking. After my two meetings of the Next Gen group, I was hooked and knew I wanted to get more involved. Shortly thereafter I was given the role of co-chair of the special interest group. It’s been a real honor, and I can happily say I’m not going anywhere any time soon. NYSAE is really great about offering as many volunteer leadership opportunities as you are willing and able to take on, so I’m also serving on the education committee. This is the type of association that encourages you to be the best you possible.

Denman: We hear a lot about mentoring programs these days. Who were your mentors, or who do you count as your heroes?

I highly value mentorship. One of my most important career goals is to mentor LGBTQA young people that are pursuing the nonprofit/association sector. I consider Warner Johnston, Interim North America CEO of ACCA; and Ruth Fasoldt, External Affairs Manager at Intersection to be my core mentors. I have had the pleasure of working with both Ruth and Warner in the past, and they are the professionals I model my career and work ethic after. It doesn’t hurt that they are also beautiful human beings. I highly look up to their ability to have a health balance between their work and personal lives. Thanks Ruth and Warner for guiding me thus far!

What is the most important thing an association and nonprofit professional can do to ensure their organizations succeed in their missions?

Jean: I think the single most important thing an association/ nonprofit professional can do to ensure their organization succeeds in its mission is to hold the attitude that they are never too important to do any task. The reason associations and nonprofits work so well is because of the all hands-on deck attitude their teams hold, and the willingness to do whatever it takes to work towards their mission.

Denman: Thanks so much, Jean. One final question for our readers: What role do you see NYSAE playing in the association and nonprofit Sector in the Northeast, and what can we do to enhance the profession?

Jean: I see an opportunity for NYSAE to be the leading association for Associations and Nonprofits in the Northeast. I think NYSAE and the sector as a whole need to focus on recruiting and retaining the next generation of nonprofit and association professionals. I notice a lot of turnover and sector switching, and think that is a space we could work on improving. I think NYSAE should focus on the current power players and leaders in the sector mentoring the next generation and individuals new to the association and nonprofit world. I foresee NYSAE being the primary leader in that venture.

Thank you, Jean, for sharing your story with NYSAE and the rest of our association community!

Denman Wall is the Director of Interactive Services for NYSAE and Editor of InView.