Enabling entrepreneurs: How a donor advised fund overcomes employment hurdles

(Representatives from ROSIES)

The Sobrato Organization represents four generations of a California family known as much for its real estate holdings as for its diverse philanthropic endeavors. The Sobrato Family Foundation, established by John A. Sobrato in 1996, has contributed more than $263 million to charities and nonprofits.

In 2012, he and his wife, Sue, and son John M. Sobrato became the first multigenerational signatories of the Giving Pledge, a commitment to focus the majority of their wealth on philanthropy.

Jeff Sobrato, John M.’s 26-year-old son, is following his family’s path with a donor advised fund at SVCF. While earning his business chops at 1st Century Bank in Los Angeles, Sobrato oversees the eponymous Jeffrey Michael Sobrato Fund, which supports youth charities. The latest, ROSIES (Removing Obstacles, Supporting Innovation, Empowerment and Sustainability), is dedicated to job training and entrepreneurism for young adults with disabilities. 

“Co-founder Lee Chernotsky and I see ROSIES as an opportunity to disrupt a paradigm and invest in a startup nonprofit that removes obstacles for others,” Sobrato said. 

With the flexible support of the donor advised fund behind them, ROSIES tackles the stark reality of 80 percent unemployment among adults with disabilities.

Tactics include its innovative CREW (Collaborative, Respected, Empowered Workers) College, a program that teaches personal, social and job skills, and 4Purpose businesses, which are owned and supported by ROSIES.

“In our first year, we have 11 fully trained CREW mates and another 10 in training,” said Sobrato, who serves as board chair. “Our first 4Purpose venture, which we hope to launch this year, is the ROSIES Pop Bus, a food truck run by CREW mates and delivering popsicles and prepackaged treats, as well as self advocacy, to the Los Angeles community. It’s our first step in creating opportunities for these young adults to steer their own lives.”

Editor's note: This post originally appeared in the fall 2015 edition of SVCF Magazine. Access the full version of SVCF magazine online