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Second Life for Nonprofit Leadership

Even as Cal Lutheran University prepares to resurrect the Center for Nonprofit Leadership, Dena Jenson – former leader of the organization who will resume her post at the new version – hesitates to call the institution’s history a “blessing in disguise.” “I don’t know about that – after all, I lost my job,” she said. “Let’s put it this way: It’s a great opportunity.” Ventura County Community Foundation disbanded the center last September in the wake of a financial mismanagement crisis at the foundation. While Jenson is eager to leave that memory behind, she brings numerous contacts in the nonprofit and business community to the Cal Lutheran campus. The center will open at Cal Lutheran’s Thousand Oaks campus in September. Jenson hopes to capitalize on the opportunity to involve the university’s student body. “Working with a college gives us a chance to evangelize on behalf of the field, to get young people involved in nonprofit activities early,” Jenson said. The center plans to start out with four to six monthly workshops, which will cover skills such as grant-writing, social media marketing and management. The courses will be taught by veteran nonprofit leaders and will include online resources. One leader who believes in the center is David Friedlander. In 2000, he teamed up with his wife Faith to found Kids & Families Together, a counseling resource center for individuals and families in foster care, kinship care and adoption. According to Friedlander, launching the organization would have been impossible without the help of Jenson and the center. “When we started, we didn’t really know anything about running a nonprofit organization,” Friedlander said. “I really looked to the community foundation – specifically to the center – to help us get those skills.” Sixteen years later, Kids & Families Together serves around 1,800 families annually, operating with a $2.5 million budget and 60 employees. Friedlander looks forward to visiting the center’s new offices at Cal Lutheran in September. – Helen Floersh

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