Intro to the New CAO: Meet Dave Robben
Community Living’s new Chief Administrative Officer is looking forward to expanding the organization’s impact by holding true to the commitment to innovation mentioned in our mission statement.
Dave Robben was first introduced to Community Living by a friend of his who thought Dave would make an excellent addition to the Board of Directors. His aunt inspired him and his family to volunteer for organizations providing services for people with disabilities. His history of work with this population combined with his background in business made him a great fit and he agreed to join the Board five years ago. In this time, he’s worked on many collaborative projects with Community Living’s executive team and has served on the Planning, Executive, and Development Committees. He says his work on the Board of Directors inspired him to leave the corporate world and he knew he wanted to apply to be the Chief Administrative Officer as soon as he learned about the new role.
The need for this new position became evident in the first year of work on Community Living’s strategic plan in collaboration with High Five Strategies. Since its incorporation in 1978, Community Living has expanded from operating just one day habilitation program, now called Support Services for Adults, to an organization serving nearly 1,000 children and adults with disabilities annually in six unique programs. While the number of participants served is certainly impressive, it’s not enough to meet the needs of the growing St. Charles County community. As the population increases, so does the demand for our services. Most programs are operating at capacity and many families must be placed on a lengthy waitlist before they can begin receiving services.
“The county is growing, so the number of people who need our services grows.”
“I’ve always gone in and grown organizations,” Robben said, alluding to his former career in both the for-profit and nonprofit sector. “That’s the plan here. We want to get bigger.” The focus of his new role will be on how Community Living can position itself for growth and prepare for potential opportunities. He’ll dive deep into understanding what the staffing and technological needs look like if we expand services at varying rates. He reflected on one simple change that changed daily business operations in a previous role. “They had these big, old Nokia car phone-looking things they used to plug in their orders,” he said. When they equipped staff with iPads and a new inventory program, they were able to work much more efficiently and the number of stores they could stock in a given day increased. In his most recent role in a nonprofit organization, he saw 43% growth in under a year. He says he’ll be working on “making sure everything runs smoothly and looking for opportunities everywhere we can.” He’s already hitting the ground running, combing through our current contracts and funding sources.
“The organization has been around 44 years. What’s it going to look like 44 years from now?”
Robben says he’s excited to see how Community Living can become more efficient and effective, but he won’t just be looking at operations in the short-term. “The organization has been around 44 years. What’s it going to look like 44 years from now?” His guess is that we might see smaller organizations seeking to make strategic alliances with larger organizations like Community Living. He acknowledges that we’re not the only ones offering our programs, but that our programs have a reputation for being the best. “Another organization could come to us and say they can’t support their programs and ask if we can take them on. We need to be ready and have a plan to see what that might look like.” While it’s uncertain what Community Living’s future holds, we can be sure that we’ll be able to give a calculated response when opportunities arise.
Dave Robben is married and has a six-year-old daughter. He and his wife are expecting their first son in July. The family resides in Ballwin, Missouri.