Dana Serleth, Chief Operating Officer
“Health and prevention have always been a part of my life. That is one of the reasons I joined Prevention Institute. I was attracted by the breadth of the work and the focus on community-level prevention work. I find it unique.”
Dana Serleth joined Prevention Institute as chief operating officer in early 2018, bringing a wealth of experience in senior management and leadership roles in the private and nonprofit sectors.
“I grew up in Southern California and since college I’ve been involved with social justice organizations. What clicked for me about Prevention Institute is that this is the best of all worlds. Primary prevention affects everyone, it’s what we must do for all in the community to make the world healthy and safe. That’s not conservative, liberal or progressive. It’s what we all need.”
As chief operating officer, Dana is responsible for providing advice, analysis, direction, oversight, and hands-on implementation of financial and administrative matters: “I have a strong business background, so what I’m looking for is to make sure the finance and operations are integrated in a way that supports the content work.” An important component of her role is to identify opportunities for improving performance and efficiency across the organization.
“That’s what I’m really good at and have done in multiple jobs before - figuring out what tweaks to systems and processes will make an organization run more efficiently and make people happier… One of my philosophies is not to undo things that are working well. And make sure if something needs changing, there is buy-in to the process for making that happen.”
Throughout her career, Dana has played a key role in organizational development at different phases from start-up through rapid scale up and growth. From 1995 to 2004, Dana was president and chief executive officer of the Every Child Can Learn Foundation, an innovative nonprofit supporting the public school system in San Francisco. Under her leadership, the organization experienced a ten-fold growth in revenue and successfully developed multiple cross-sector partnerships. Over 25 project teams, many still active today, provided enhanced curriculum such as arts enrichment, food gardens, tutoring, and health programs to public schools in the area.
“There are lots of ways social entrepreneurs can affect the public good, and so many things that need inspirational entrepreneurship in the nonprofit sector. What I really want to do is apply my business expertise to help people advance causes that will build community.
Dana co-founded Bztek Solutions in 2009 as a niche technology service provider for nonprofits, small businesses, and residential customers in the San Francisco Bay Area. As co-owner, she was involved in all aspects of the start-up—from concept to service delivery—and implementation of financial and human resources, processes, and systems. In 2011, Dana was appointed operations and finances director at the Center for Justice and Accountability, an international nonprofit using litigation to hold perpetrators accountable for human rights abuses, develop human rights law, and advance the rule of law in countries transitioning from periods of abuse.
In 2014, Dana joined ChangeLab Solution as executive vice president and chief financial officer. ChangeLab Solution is a national nonprofit working to achieve health equity by making connections to catalyze law, policy, systems and institutional change to create more equitable distribution of the social determinants of health.
“ChangeLab does some complementary work to Prevention Institute, but they focus on law and policy. I worked there for nearly four years and led design of organizational systems and processes that significantly improved operations, financial management, staff hiring and retention, and more. At Change Lab, this involved shifting thinking from a focus on single issues and people organized in silos, for example around tobacco control or land use, to thinking about the organization as a consulting firm and developing processes that maximize peoples’ talents, work satisfaction, and impact.”
Dana is actively involved in a wide range of community and professional associations. She has served on dozens of boards, councils and committees, including as chair of the Leadership San Francisco Alumni Council and Alumnae Resources, and as a member of the San Francisco State University Department of Secondary Education Advisory Board, Scripps College Board, the San Francisco Youth Council, the board of TechSoup, the San Francisco Workforce Investment Board, and the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce board, among others.
Dana holds a bachelor’s degree in British and American Literature from Scripps College, and has completed professional training at Leadership San Francisco, IBM Corporate Training School, and Harvard Business School, among others