The Council of Neighbors and Organizations, or CONO, has seen many changes over the past decade under Dave Munger's leadership.
Now it's undergoing a change at the top: Munger, 72, is stepping down as executive director and being replaced by Diane Loschen, a marketing executive with extensive nonprofit ties.
A group of community activists founded CONO in 1976 to keep an eye on local governments and their treatment of neighborhood issues. After serving on CONO's board, Munger became president in 2008; his title changed to executive director as he oversaw CONO's transformation from a volunteer organization to an IRS-certified nonprofit. It now has five paid staff members and works with about 900 organized neighborhoods in El Paso and Teller counties; it provides leadership training and homeowner association office training, connects neighborhoods with appropriate resources, offers advice on working with local government and developers, and more.
Loschen will take the reins near the end of the month in the newly created role of chief executive officer. She has been director of marketing for CBL Properties/Chapel Hills Mall. She also has served as an executive at Pikes Peak United Way, worked at the Gill Foundation and served on the boards of the Resource Exchange, Imagination Celebration and others.
The Gazette sat down with Munger and Loschen at CONO's downtown Colorado Springs offices to discuss the transition:
Gazette: Dave, you're stepping down after 10 years at the helm of CONO. Why now?
Munger: Primarily because I think it's time. I've been doing this for as long as I've done anything in my career, which has been fairly varied. I'm ready to do some other things. I also think that my particular skill set, while it has been good for what we were doing here, I'm reaching the end of my competence. I think we need somebody like Diane, who is more familiar with how to raise money effectively - that's a significant challenge yet for CONO. While I still love what I am doing, I think it is good to have some other points of view and some freshness of approach.
Gazette: Looking back, what are you most proud of?
Munger: Leaving this organization where it is. We really had nothing in the way of human resources other than the volunteers. We now have five full-time staff, we have a place to call our own, at least renting that. I'm also really proud of what we have done as a staff. We've really upped our game when it comes to education and training for our members. We provide them with a really professional view of how they can be most effective when they deal with the city or the county or their fellow residents.
Gazette: Diane, what do you see as Dave's legacy?
Loschen: I have big shoes to fill, He has created this structure to carry the organization forward. Some of the programs that we as an organization have been able to provide to the community, the HOA training, the neighborhood education component, the civics awareness, all of those things have required some vision and some hard work in terms of relationship build with the city, the county and key stakeholders. I think he's leaving it in a great place.
Gazette: Dave, what was the search like for your replacement and what made Diane the right choice?
Munger: We had over 60 people formally apply. The board interviewed at least a dozen people, and Diane just rose to the top. One of the things that I think the board was particularly impressed by was the work that she has done in the nonprofit arena and the fact that she also knows the business community.
Gazette: Diane, what drew you to the job?
Loschen: This opportunity to get back in the nonprofit sector really resonated with me. I love the nature of the work and just the opportunity to educate the community. Going through the process, I really appreciated that CONO included stakeholders in the process. It wasn't just the board, it wasn't just Dave, it was someone from the city, it was someone from the county. That was important for me, and it was also important for me to hear what their vision was for CONO. All of that made me super excited to get in here and do this work.
Gazette: Diane will have the title of CEO rather than executive director. What is the significance of that change?
Munger: I think it reflects the board's awareness that we're a bigger organization than we expected to be, and that we will be bigger yet at some point. We think that CEO title is more appropriate of where we intend to go from now on.
Gazette: Diane, what is your vision for the future of CONO?
Loschen: Raising the awareness, raising the brand so that when you hear CONO, everyone knows, oh, that's the Council of Neighbors and Organizations. I think we have a huge opportunity there. I'm also really excited about this focus shift over to the southeast quadrant of our community and the attention that many in the city are placing on that area of Colorado Springs. CONO's role in that, and how we shape the dialogue and engage, that's another opportunity for our organization.
Answers were edited for brevity and clarity.