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Honoree Headshot

Brian Sonderman

Executive Director
Milwaukee Habitat for Humanity

Location: Milwaukee, WI
Founded: 1984
Industry: Non Profit

Early in his career, a professional setback nearly derailed Brian Sonderman’s career. But he learned the importance of perseverance, and Milwaukee Habitat for Humanity and the city in general are better for it.

“Great leaders don’t rest on yesterday’s successes but they also don’t give up after deep disappointment,” Sonderman said. “I almost gave up on myself. I am so grateful for those who challenged me to not waste my pain and disappointment. And instead they encouraged me to allow those experiences to mold me into a servant leader.”

Today, Sonderman leads Milwaukee Habitat for Humanity as the organization’s executive director.

The nonprofit’s mission is to combat Milwaukee’s affordable housing crisis by providing families with a path to safe, stable housing. Studies show that safe, affordable housing leads to improved health, education and financial stability. Milwaukee Habitat for Humanity is not just helping local families, but also revitalizing entire neighborhoods, the organization said. “As we build, block by block, we aim to decrease crime, increase community engagement and create vibrant, sustainable neighborhoods,” the nonprofit said. “Milwaukee Habitat offers a hand up, rather than a handout, as Habitat homeowners help build their own homes and pay an affordable mortgage.”

Under Sonderman’s leadership, Milwaukee Habitat has been nationally recognized for its revitalization initiative and earned the Habitat for Humanity Affiliate of Distinction designation as well as the Milwaukee BizTimes Large Non-Profit of the Year award.

Sonderman helped to create diverse funding streams for Milwaukee Habitat. The ReStore program opened three stores in the area to provide salvaged and donated home improvement materials for resale, providing ongoing revenue and keeping materials out of landfills. A new LLC was formed that flips properties that are donated or purchased at a low price, providing additional income for Milwaukee Habitat.

Milwaukee Habitat’s staff has grown from approximately 20 to 70 associates, and the board has grown to 20 members. “He successfully took a solid nonprofit organization to a financially sustainable organization with an ongoing, diverse funding stream,” the nonprofit said. “This allows the organization to continue working toward their mission without interruption and accelerate the pace.”

Presented by:

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Honoree Fun fact

An alum of University of Wisconsin himself, and with one daughter studying at UW, Sonderman bleeds Badger red. He is a dedicated, or rather, self-described “obsessed” Wisconsin Badger fan. He follows all Badger sports – even if he doesn’t know the sport. 

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