Member Spotlight: Julie Zhou

Topics: Spotlights

Member Spotlight: Julie Zhou

For over 20 years nonprofit organizations, businesses, and individuals have counted on Full Circle Fund (FCF) to help build a better Bay Area. Every year we count on our Members to share their time and talent to build the capacity of nonprofit organizations to fulfill their missions.

As a follow-up to our recent announcement of new Grant Partners, we caught up with new Tech Accelerator Fund (TAF) co-chair Julie Zhou who shares her Full Circle Fund (FCF) experience, advice for new members, and more.

Why did you become a FCF member?

My connection with FCF is personal. Dan Steif (FCF Chief Business Development Officer) and I started our careers at the same company on the same day. We were on different teams at Google but it felt a lot like college where you have an entering class and they become your social circle in some ways. As each of us grew in our careers, we kept in touch because each of us was working on things that were of interest to each other.

When Dan proposed TAF in 2018, I had never heard of FCF but the way he positioned it was really compelling. I had reached the point in my career where I wanted to find opportunities to give back to the community. But all the opportunities I found either involved giving exclusively money or time. And neither was especially rewarding on its own. TAF provided a unique opportunity to make use of both my money and time in a structured way that resulted in noticeable benefits for the nonprofits.

What was one of the biggest challenges your volunteer team worked on with the nonprofit partner?

I have collaborated on three different projects with WorkIt, Talking Points, and Beyond 12. Each time it has gotten more efficient and effective. While each nonprofit and project has different challenges, the initial project scope might be unclear or incomplete (especially if the nonprofit tries to accomplish too much too quickly) so often we have to agree on key deliverables in the specific time frame. Another challenge is when volunteers apply their skills and experience to determine the value a new product or service can deliver to its intended stakeholders. In the business sector, the market typically determines or influences product price or service value. For nonprofits, the value of a new product or service is the impact they make on the community they serve, not just individual end-users.

What was the most rewarding part of your FCF project experience?

It was great that TAF Grant Partners are vetted by staff and co-chairs. The nonprofits have an identified need and they are willing to put forward a senior staffer on their side who will be doing the work with you. That’s why TAF succeeds.

How would you describe FCF to friends and family?

FCF is the best way I have found to give back in a measurable and meaningful way where you can see exactly the impact you are having on a nonprofit. The ability to apply traditional business metrics to the nonprofit model is rewarding.

In your new role as TAF co-chair, what advice would you give to first-time members?

Your first working session is going to be very messy, that is not only ok but it is also expected. It is a sign of the creative process. It’s a lot of work. A lot of professionals who have advised companies or volunteered with nonprofits before, probably have not done anything like this. You are creating slides, going through Google analytics, changing bids on Facebook Ads, and writing email templates--things you may not have done in a while--so stay focused on what the nonprofit needs.

It is incredibly rewarding to be able to share knowledge that you take for granted. For example, making an intro to someone at Salesforce so that the Grant Partner can be approved for a free plan for nonprofits. That was a game-changer for some nonprofits and it was easy for volunteer Members to enable because we already have that relationship. That is thrilling.