Laila Brenner is what you could call a habitual volunteer. From running reading programs and after-school homework help programs in low income neighborhoods to English as a second language conversational programs in college, from founding the Women's Service Club to volunteering with the Association of Fundraising Professionals, Laila never could get enough volunteering. She’s done everything from non-native plant removal in the East Bay to sorting canned food at the San Francisco Food Bank.
No volunteer job is too big or small for Laila - she just really digs the feeling she gets when giving back. It doesn't hurt that she is deeply entrenched in the nonprofit sector, and has her Master's of Nonprofit Administration. In addition to her multitude of volunteer roles, Laila is currently serving as Director of Marketing for Nonprofits 101 and Partnerships Coordinator for Link Media.
But it was in 2007, when she had the most inspiring theatre experience of her life, that she really kicked her volunteer life into overdrive. “When I first stepped foot on the five-acre grove of majestic redwood trees that AtmosTheatre’s Theatre in the Woods program calls home, I knew I was somewhere special,” Laila says. “When I received a thank you and solicitation letter a few months later, I knew this was a group I wanted to help.”
Laila sent a small donation to AtmosTheatre, along with a note asking if they needed any fundraising help. The Executive Director at the time contacted her personally and invited her to come meet the Board. With all of her experience in the nonprofit sector, and all of her time volunteering, Laila was blown away by the dedication of the volunteers at Atmos. “It was easy to catch the contagion of their passion,” she says, “and continue giving more and more to help grow this wonderful organization.”
In 2002 five actors joined forces and founded AtmosTheatre. Now entering it's 10th year, AtmosTheatre annually produces a Theatre in the Woods production in Woodside, Calif. and has also recently taken the San Francisco Theater Pub under its wing. Reaching thousands of people each year with performances in unique settings, AtmosTheatre is 100% led by volunteers.
Laila’s small volunteer role fundraising for AtmosTheatre grew into Board President, and as Atmos produced more and more innovative and inspiring shows, Laila increased her involvement, eventually accepting her current job as Executive Director.
This new role has allowed Laila to combine her love of theatre with her professional skills as a nonprofit manager. She intends to use her expertise to help Atmos expand their organization, budget and board, and to lead AtmosTheatre into a bright future of growth and fantastic, sold-out shows.
As an exemplary volunteer herself, Laila can’t say enough about the volunteers that work with Atmos. They bring such a variety of skills to the table, she says, “and combined with their passion and dedication, it’s amazing the kind of work and impact we can accomplish!”
Atmos depends on volunteers for their annual Theatre in the Woods production, to help prepare the land, clear trails, set the scene, manage the box office and run the stage production. Additionally, the Atmos Board of Directors goes above and beyond to help with things such as marketing, fundraising, donor relations and event planning. “And that is just scratching the surface of all that our amazing volunteers do for us!” says Laila.
Being a San Francisco-based theatre company that does shows in Woodside, Calif., it has been critical for Atmos to be able to post volunteer opportunities in a variety of locations. VolunteerMatch has enabled AtmosTheatre to market itself to a larger audience.
Laila explains how fulfilling her work with AtmosTheatre has been. “Watching an organization thrive and continue to accomplish its mission of entertaining people in unique and meaningful ways has been what keeps me giving more and more,” she says. “And knowing that I am part of a group of dedicated volunteers who truly care about the work they are doing and the value they are adding to our community makes me want to give my best as a volunteer."