David Dahlin, the former head of the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center who lost his job when the museum merged with Colorado College, starts Monday as vice president of philanthropic services for the Pikes Peak Community Foundation.
“I’m very optimistic and upbeat about the direction Colorado Springs is going, and I think the foundation plays a critical role in working with government, businesses and other nonprofit groups in a spirit of collaboration to better the community,” he said.
Dahlin, 61, was president and CEO of the Fine Arts Center from 2014 to 2017 and brokered the deal for the college to take over operations and assets.
“It was the most challenging and fulfilling project in my career,” he said. “I knew I’d be pushing myself out of a job, but it was for the greater good.”
As a self-described “collaborative, consensus-building kind of leader,” that experience typifies Dahlin’s 30-year career in social-sector leadership, which has encompassed philanthropic advising, child and youth development, arts and culture, the environment, human services and health.
“David’s extensive expertise in social impact strategies and nonprofit effectiveness will ensure Pikes Peak Community Foundation fundholders, and the greater community, achieve their philanthropic goals,” said CEO Gary Butterworth. “With his regional familiarity, abundant passion and ability to connect with people, he is a valuable addition to our team.”
After leaving the Fine Arts Center, Dahlin traveled for three months in Europe, then moved to work for a Philadelphia-based philanthropic consulting firm.
He bought out the company after a year, renamed it LiveWell GiveWell and returned to Colorado Springs.
Now, Dahlin said, he’s turning his attention to strengthening philanthropy because “what nonprofits do is really the engine of a community,” not only helping people in need, but also driving promising ideas.
“The community foundation model is well-proven as a nexus of social impact in the community,” he said.
In his new role, Dahlin will advance people’s understanding of the 93-year-old Pikes Peak Community Foundation, which advises some 250 family and private foundations and corporations and businesses on where and how to spend their charitable dollars.
In addition to addressing long-term social needs, the foundation also assists with immediate needs, such as organizing a COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund to benefit nonprofits in El Paso and Teller counties. The fund raised more than $1.5 million and continues to accept donations and make grants.
“I have a lot of knowledge to strengthen the nonprofit sector,” Dahlin said. “There are a lot of good ideas that just don’t implement very well, and it’s important to help people understand that a heartwarming pitch doesn’t necessarily mean something wise is getting done.”
Butterworth said Dahlin’s ability to ”think strategically and facilitate meaningful conversations” will improve the philanthropic sector’s influence in shaping the region’s future.
“Philanthropy means caring for your fellow humans,” Dahlin said. “The question is how do we help people invest in charities and affect social change?”
That’s what managing philanthropic giving seeks to answer.