Leadership

Denise Schlener

Denise has devoted her career to creating sustainable, impactful organizations in which people can thrive professionally and personally. Serving in executive and senior-level positions for over 30 years, she has successfully led leadership transitions, strategic initiatives, fundraising turnarounds, responses to budgetary and cultural crises, and board and staff development. Currently, Denise serves as Interim Chief Operating Officer of Polaris.

Executive and board roles in both large and small nonprofits have given her a deep understanding of the unique leadership challenges in organizations of all sizes and life cycle stages. As national director at the Land Trust Alliance, she led a Board-Staff initiative to assess the needs of its 1200 members and develop a strategy to increase organizational capacity and effectiveness of member land trusts which resulted in 300 newly accredited land trusts. Under her leadership as vice president of the non-profit publishing firm, Island Press, she led a successful turnaround in contributed revenue that spurred the expansion of its urban environment program.  And, as chief of staff at the Humane Society of the United States, her work resulted in major new investments in professional development and support for staff.  

She is a graduate of Middlebury College and received her master’s degree from Yale University.  She is chairperson for the Wilderness Land Trust and serves on the board of directors for the Tregaron Conservancy, a permanently protected green space in Washington, D.C. that is open and free to the public. 

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