Terri Sorensen is the Chief Executive Officer of Friends of the Children, a national nonprofit that is breaking the cycle of generational poverty. Friends of the Children pairs children facing the greatest obstacles with a salaried, professional mentor (called a Friend) who stays with each child from as early as age 4 through high school graduation – 12+ years, no matter what.
As the national CEO, Sorensen is responsible for carrying out the vision, mission and strategic direction for the national network. She works closely with the National Board of Directors, a diverse and well-respected group of public, private and nonprofit leaders from around the country.
Over her 20-year tenure with the organization, Sorensen has led record-breaking fundraising efforts, bringing in over $250 million to the organization. Since becoming CEO in 2012, Sorensen has led an ambitious national expansion campaign, growing the organization from five to 36 locations in just ten years, and quadrupling the number of children served. She has also diversified funding streams, growing the network-wide operating budget from just $7.5 million in 2012 to $61 million in 2023.
In her role as national CEO, Sorensen sets the priorities for the network, ensures the organization is financially sustainable, and oversees Friends of the Children’s program implementation, research and evaluation, branding, fundraising and expansion efforts. She leads a national team of over 40 staff members and provides leadership for more than 576 staff across the country. Prior to being appointed national CEO in 2012, Sorensen served as the executive director of Friends of the Children – Portland, the founding chapter, for 12 years.
Under Sorensen’s leadership, Friends of the Children has become a national leader in evidence-based practice for its rigorous research and evaluation efforts. This includes participation in a Longitudinal Randomized-Controlled Trial, a Social Return on Investment study by the Harvard Business School Association of Oregon and a Social Innovation Fund Pay for Success feasibility study. Sorensen also oversees annual third-party evaluation of the network’s program data.
In 2019, Sorensen wrote an article for Stanford Social Innovation Review on the organization’s successful scaling efforts. Her work has led to national recognition for the organization in The New York Times, Forbes, Fortune, CBS News, NPR, Governing Magazine, The Chronicle of Social Change and dozens of other national media outlets.
Sorensen was selected as one of the first leaders for the Business Journal’s Leadership Trust. She was also selected for Results for America’s Moneyball for Government Nonprofit All-Star Team and the Leap of Reason Ambassadors Community. She has served on numerous boards of directors and received an Orchid Award for the 25 Most Influential Women in Business by the Portland Business Journal. In 2019, the organization was awarded the Platinum Seal of Transparency from GuideStar.
Sorensen holds a B.S. in accountancy from the School of Business and Public Administration at the University of Missouri—Columbia and is a Certified Public Accountant. Previously, she was controller for the American Red Cross Oregon Trail Chapter, held key managerial positions with Sprint Corporation and worked in public accounting for Ernst & Young in Kansas City, MO.