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University of Colorado Denver

School of Public Affairs

Center for Nonprofit Leadership and Research

Since 1982, the Center for Nonprofit Leadership and Research has worked with foundations, communities, and non-profit organizations to help them solve complex issues that impact the public, private and non-profit sectors. The Center's specific mission within the Buechner Institute is to enhance the capacity of diverse communities and public, private, and non-profit organizations to solve problems and meet the challenges of change.  The Center provides relevant and timely research, training, facilitation, organizational development and technical assistance to non-profit and community groups, as well as to governmental organizations especially if part of a collaborative problem solving process.

The activities of the Center fall under three main, overlapping domains – Leadership Training and Organizational Development, service (including technical assistance), and research. These activities cut across substantive policy issues of interest to the private, non-profit and public sectors, such as environmental quality, health care, child welfare, affordable housing, and homelessness.

Leadership Training and Organizational Development

Developing leaders to foster more productive cooperation between the private, nonprofit, and public sectors is key to the mission of the Center for Nonprofit Leadership and Research.   Ongoing training programs and short-term organizational and/or community workshops are designed and coordinated by the Center.  For Example:

Rocky Mountain Leadership Program  The Rocky Mountain Leadership Program is an intensive residential seminar that allows participants to examine their role in the public sector, explore the changing and demanding environment in which they operate, and develop leadership skills that help facilitate effective public action. If interested, they can also earn three hours of credit through the School of Public Affairs at the University of Colorado Denver.

The Denver Community Leadership Forum  For over 25 years, the Denver Community Leadership Forum (DCLF) has helped shape the skills our community leaders need to turn challenge into opportunity and conflict into collaboration. DCLF program objectives include:

  • Build strong linkages and working relationships among leaders from different sectors in the community—create a "network of responsibility."
  • Build a critical mass of leaders with a sense of shared concern and commitment to city, state and nation—a "constituency for the whole" which can make a difference.
  • Provide an understanding of new leadership needs and capacities.

Partnerships for Health Initiative Workshops  With funding provided by The Colorado Trust Foundation, the Center designs and conducts organizational development workshops for 13 different community organizations throughout Colorado.  These trainings range from “Best Practices in Community Collaboration” to “Fundraising and Sustainability Plans” to “The Stages of Organizational Development.”


There is fairly constant demand from non-profit and community groups for services related to strategic planning, facilitation, and conflict management. SPA often receives requests to provide such services as the result of the participation in its training programs (e.g., The Denver Community Leadership Forum and The Rocky Mountain program), as well as by responding to requests for proposals.  The Center centralizes and coordinates these activities within SPA.

SPA is in an excellent position to offer students--supervised by faculty—the opportunity to work with community groups and nonprofit organizations. The Master in Public Administration (MPA), as well as the Masters in Criminal Justice, requires that students perform a “capstone project,” which often involves working with local organizations. Over 100 such projects are completed every year.  We are in the process of making these capstones available online, so they will be of broader use.


An essential activity for the Center for Nonprofit Leadership and Research will be to pursue and conduct policy analysis, research and evaluation on issues relevant to the performance of community groups and non-profit organizations in the region.  Much of our analytic work is in support of collaborative problem solving efforts or that cut across agencies, levels of government or cross sectors.  Several issues of immediate and pressing concern include analysis and research on vulnerable populations including homelessness, housing of native populations, and the effectiveness of nonprofit organizations engaged in advocacy and building public will.

In developing a research agenda, the Center focuses on issues that are not only important for communities in Colorado, but those that resonate with the Rocky Mountain region as a whole.  The Center also has partnerships with other intellectual resources of the CU system to address community needs.  Research examples:

  • Charles S. Mott Foundation State Fiscal Analysis Initiative
  • Established Health Indicators for Denver’s Enterprise Communities

Technical Assistance

  • The Colorado Children’s Campaign –Children’s Budget Analysis
  • Colorado Health Foundation --Teambuilding
  • Denver Art Museum –Strategic Planning
  • The Colorado Trust Partnerships for Health Initiative –Strategic Planning, Organizational Development, Team coaching

For more information, contact Lisa Carlson, | Physical Address: 1380 Lawrence St., Ste. 500  Denver, CO  80204 | Mailing Address: University of Colorado Denver, SPA, Campus Box 142, P.O. Box 173364, Denver, CO 80217-3364 | ph: 303.315.2228 | fax: 303.315.2229 | SPA Website Feedback

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