United Way of Grand Forks, East Grand Forks and Area announced Dave Sena as its new president and CEO during its annual luncheon, Wednesday at the Ramada Inn.
Sena, the founder of Bold Leading, a company that provides coaching and assistance to nonprofit organizations, has worked with several nonprofits in the past — both as a coach and a leader. Nikki Jackman, the current board chair of United Way Grand Forks, announced Sena’s new position before a large crowd of onlookers attending an event at the Ramada Inn.
“We are thrilled to announce Dave Sena as the president and CEO of the United Way,” Jackman said. “He is a very experienced fundraiser and a very experienced leader.”
Sena has worked with the New Life Center in Fargo and served as the director of Northland Rescue Mission from 2001 until 2014. He also started Bold Leading as a way to coach and assist other nonprofits with increasing their fundraising efforts.
“The people we coached, they had a 30% increase over people that hadn’t been coached,” he said.
Sena says he’s excited for the opportunity to lead United Way. He’ll begin his tenure by going on a “listening tour” and getting to know stakeholders, donors and other partners that give financially. His goal is to get their feedback regarding what United Way has done well in the past as well as how it could do better in the future.
Sena also will focus on getting to know community volunteers and colleagues. He says he’s “open to change” within United Way, but that he’ll be in “learning mode” for the next 30 days while he settles in to his new role.
“What I’ve been telling our team is here what can we do 10 percent differently that can make a big impact on things that we’ve normally done,” he said.
Sena hopes he’ll learn enough leading up to January that he can make “systematic changes.” But for now, he says he’s just trying to learn from his new team to see where they can go from here.
Phyllis Johnson, the interim president for United Way, will be assisting Sena until June. Sena says Johnson will return in August to take over the role of the organization's board chair.
Noting that charitable giving has experienced a “5 to 9% swing” nationally, Sena says that United Way will need to “become smarter in a digital age” and reach out to businesses to be successful in the future. He says his focus as CEO will be increasing the organization's profile and “spotlighting” partner agencies.
“We’re going to have to get creative on how we connect with our community and challenge people to be a part of what we’re doing philanthropically here in the community,” Sena said.
Sena’s experience with fundraising appears to be a factor in his selection as the new president of United Way. He says he was asked numerous questions about how he would approach fundraising differently than it has been in the past.
“My big thing on fundraising is really to make sure that your story is front and center,” Sena said. “And for United Way, the biggest story there is that we work with a lot of great nonprofits that work directly with our neighbors.”
Sena immediately will begin his duties.