Application for Legislative Commission for Denise M Whinnen

Contact Information

Full Name

Denise M Whinnen

Eligible for commission


Party Affiliation



Since February of 2005, I have worked for the Gill Foundation/Gay & Lesbian Fund for Colorado and currently serve as the Director of Colorado Programs.

Educational Background

I have completed 160+ undergraduate and graduate hours of coursework toward a double major in psychology and sociology at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs.

Zip Code


Congressional District


Past Political Activity

Until 2008, I participated in several local initiatives, school board candidate races, two mayoral races, and a couple of statewide ballot initiatives. Since then, I have set my political interests aside to maintain the integrity of my work at the foundation. This list represents my best recollection and ability to recreate my political donations since 2015: 2020: Abortion Access For All, Fair Fight, Inc., Meidas Touch, No On Prop 115, Barbara Bollier, Cal Cunningham, Jon Hoadley, Mike Espy, Theresa Greenfield, Jamie Harrison, Sara Gideon, Doug Jones, Jon Ossoff, Paula Jean Swearengin, John Hickenlooper, Jillian Freeland, Steve Bullock, Mark Kelly 2019: Pete Lee, Amy McGrath, Brittany Petterson, 2018: Yes on Prop 111, Cary Kennedy 2016: Leslie Herod Leadership Fund, Jeff Bridges, Pete Lee, Morgan Carroll 2015: Travis Leiker, Steve Fenberg, Mary Lou Makepeace Multiple years: NARAL Pro-Choice America, NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado, New Era Colorado Action Fund, One Colorado, Planned Parenthood Action Fund, Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains Action Fund, ProgressNow Colorado

List of Political and Civic Organizations belonged to

Because my professional grantmaking portfolio crosses a diverse range of issues and organizations, my ability to serve on political, civic, and community organizations is very limited to prevent any appearance of a conflict of interest or impropriety. If there is any possibility that an organization could become a potential grantee, I cannot serve that organization personally. Governor's Colorado COVID-19 Relief Fund, Facilitator - Grant Review Committee Colorado Department of Local Affairs – 2020 Census Grant Decision Committee Colorado Technology Association Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce Funders Committee for Civic Participation Philanthropy Colorado

Organization and Advocacy Experience

Since 1975, I have been lucky enough to work in positions that allowed me to blur the lines between my personal and professional passions. I worked in the hospitality industry for 30 years. For much of that time, I operated as a community relations, marketing, and advertising professional. While in that capacity, I had the good fortune to work with nearly every school, nonprofit, and community organization in the Pikes Peak Region. This work included producing events and fundraisers in partnership with the organizations. I also worked with many local business associations and downtown partnerships. Until 2008, I also worked on local initiatives, state ballot issues, and candidate campaigns. That work put me in contact with local community groups, nonprofits, faith groups, military and veterans associations, and business organizations, including those from both the conservative and progressive side. When I transitioned into the philanthropic community to work for The Gill Foundation and Gay & Lesbian Fund for Colorado, I set political work aside. I was initially responsible for establishing a new business and government strategy position to conduct statewide outreach that advanced issues of LGBT equality. I became the organizational delegate to 15 chambers of commerce and business associations across Colorado, including those focused on women and minority business owners. My foundation portfolio transitioned to include a robust democracy portfolio that included civic and voter engagement grantees and programs. I led a yearlong process to bring advocacy, civic engagement, litigation, public policy, research, and think-tank nonprofit organizations into a collaborative roundtable. The process required me to navigate interests that were often in conflict and quite tense. In the end, more than 50 nonprofits from across Colorado joined the roundtable, many representing women, low-income families, and communities of color. Over the next ten years, I facilitated a funder collaborative and donor table to support the roundtable's programmatic work. In my current role as Director of Colorado Programs, my work has again expanded to include a portfolio that focuses on financial and economic empowerment and wellbeing for low- and modest-income families and communities of color across the state. I also have a large STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) portfolio that prioritizes students from Title I schools and rural communities. Both portfolios allow me to gain a deep understanding of the crucial needs of these communities.


My entire adult career has put me in relationships with people from diverse socioeconomic, ethnic, and geographic communities. I currently work with communities and organizations on a variety of issues across the state. I have developed a deep level of knowledge that will serve me well as a commissioner. Fair maps will give all Coloradans a shot at fair representation. I want to help drive a successful process that listens to Coloradans and translates their testimony and stories into strong fair maps. In America, elections are supposed to represent the people's will and voice, not self-serving politicians working to keep their party in power. Traditionally, politicians and party leaders put their thumbs on the scale when drawing district lines, giving themselves and their party an unfair advantage. Colorado continues to lead the way in democratic reforms that expand access to voting and give voice to marginalized communities often disenfranchised from critical systems and processes that ensure equal representation and equitable treatment. My professional work has contributed to advancements in these areas and would provide the framework to understand arguments for advancing or preserving communities of interest. Colorado's new Independent Redistricting Commissions represent an opportunity for average citizens and people from underserved communities to participate in an open and transparent process to draw Congressional Districts that preserve and advance communities of interest. I live in a county where half of the residents don't feel like they have representation at the local, state, or congressional level. El Paso County's Congressional Representatives have been from the Republican Party since at least the early 1970s. More competitive districts would strengthen our communities, political parties would have to field less-extreme candidates, and citizens would participate in our democratic processes at a higher rate because they could see it would make a difference. I supported civic and advocacy groups around the state to speak out during the 2010 redistricting meetings. Their thoughtful testimony described the importance of giving voice and representation to communities overlooked by past commissions. As a commissioner, I would advocate for commissioner colleagues to really listen to average citizens and ask elected officials with personal agendas to yield time to their constituents.

Statement on Working with Consensus

Whether in business or philanthropy, I have been in positions that required me to lead diverse groups of people, often with competing interests and priorities. Over the years, I have been trained in various team building, facilitation, and consensus-building techniques. I have worked with conservatives and progressives, scrappy neighborhood groups and well-funded state affiliates of national organizations, white-led and focused organizations and BIPOC multi-racial groups, and rural, exurban, suburban, and urban entities. Active listening, empathy, goodwill, and clear processes will lead to positive outcomes and consensus, even with competing interests at play. I can bring that leadership to the commission. My goal is to help draw maps that are fair and preserve communities of interest, particularly communities that have been disenfranchised in the past. I want to ensure that the new redistricting law's full intent is reached in word and deed. Our job is not to help one party or another or preserve the district of a powerful incumbent. It is to serve the people. That is my north star, my guiding principle.

Relevant Analytic Skills for Commission

In business, I supervised the collection of large data sets, reviewed and analyzed results, and issued reports with recommendations for operational, financial, and marketing changes. In political campaigns, I analyzed large voter files, identified targets, married that data to field and advertising strategies and tactics, iterated on the fly, and adapted to new information. In philanthropy, I am required to regularly develop metrics that measure grantee performance, conduct collective impact evaluations, and produce survey analysis of constituent groups, consumers, and citizens. My organization funds treatment and control experiments, policy research, focus groups, and messaging projects that help frame issues more effectively. Our board believes that good data drives good decisions. I have had the opportunity to learn and evolve my thinking about how to understand issues, people, and communities based on good data. I am a big believer in data driving good decisions.


Racial categories the applicant identifies with:
Applicant identifies with the following gender

Cisgender female using she/her/hers pronouns