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Dennis Poplin


Dennis Poplin Headshot

As chief learning officer, Dennis oversees Spitfire’s trainings, facilitation and learning programs.

A master trainer, skilled facilitator and expert curriculum designer, he brings more than four decades of experience as a community organizer, educator and communicator. Dennis joined Spitfire in 2008 and, since then, has planned and directed capacity-building trainings, strategy meetings and learning experiences for scores of foundations and nonprofits – from local to international, both large and small. He does it with smart insights, wide-ranging cultural references and an energetic sense of humor.

His goal is to understand the particular needs of a client and create a tailored experience that increases their strategic skills and drives their work forward. Coming from a long career in the nonprofit sector, he knows how organizations work and what they need to succeed. Dennis’ training and coaching chops are in demand on such topics as communication planning, measuring communication impact, internal communication processes, presentation skills and strategic storytelling.

His engaging and interactive approach to tailored programs have benefitted a variety of  nonprofits and foundation staff and grantees including the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Rockefeller Foundation, 11th Hour Project, United Latinos/UFCW, the Barr Foundation, Arthur M Blank Family Foundation, the Emerson Collective, Consumer Reports, Village Health Works, Ford Foundation, MIT Media Project, Packard Foundation, David and Lucille Packard Foundation, Lown Institute, Atlantic Philanthropies, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, HealthSpark Foundation, and ClimateWorks Foundation, among others.

Dennis also leads Spitfire’s Executive Training Program, a yearlong leadership development institute designed to help nonprofit executives develop the communication skills and strategies needed to lead highly-effective organizations.

Internationally, Dennis coordinated trainings for human rights grantees of the Ford Foundation in Brazil and South Africa, the European Climate Foundation in Brussels and the Energy Foundation’s China Sustainable Energy Program in Beijing and an international storytelling convening for the Rockefeller Foundation in Bellagio, Italy. For the last 13 years, Dennis has successfully run the RWJF Strategic Communications Training Program and served as a coach, trainer and emcee for the yearlong, two-cohort program.

Dennis began his political life as a middle-school anti-war and environmental troublemaker. This led to his long history in reproductive justice, LGBTQ rights, arts and media activism. He moved to Washington, D.C. in 1998 from his local San Antonio, Texas Planned Parenthood affiliate to work for Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) as assistant director of field operations. He was instrumental in the development and execution of all major organizing and public policy projects, campaigns and grassroots programs.

Prior to Planned Parenthood, Dennis was a community-based educator and organizer working on LGBTQ, youth empowerment, HIV/AIDS, media reform, and arts and cultural diversity issues.