Meet the Newest Members of the Philanthropy Southeast Board

In December, Philanthropy Southeast members voted to elect three new leaders to our Board of Trustees. We asked each of them a few questions about joining the Board and what they’d like to accomplish.


Jennifer Barksdale
Chief Finance and Operations Officer
Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation

What made you say “yes” when asked to serve on the Philanthropy Southeast board?
I benefit from the Philanthropy Southeast programs and networking and am honored to be asked to be on the Board. After my first Board meeting, I realized what an incredible opportunity this is. Spending time with the Philanthropy Southeast staff and fellow Board members and hearing the breadth of work Philanthropy Southeast has planned was energizing and humbling. What a privilege it is to support Philanthropy Southeast’s work while building relationships with foundation leaders across the Southeast. 

You’re not only a new trustee – you’re also Secretary/Treasurer. What in your work has prepared you for this role?
I am a nerdy CPA at heart who finds comfort in a good spreadsheet. For most of my 35-year career, I have applied my love of numbers to support the important program work of nonprofit organizations. How lucky I am to be able to use financial skills to support organizations working to change our world for the better. At Philanthropy Southeast, Dena and her colleagues do the hard work and make the role of secretary/treasurer easy.

Do you have any goals for your first year of Board service?
During my first year, I want to learn as much as I can about Philanthropy Southeast and how I can be a supportive board member. Philanthropy Southeast and the Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation are on similar racial equity paths, seeking to apply a racial equity lens to all our work. My goal is to dig in and deepen my understanding of racial equity and how it informs everything we do.

What else should our members know about you?
My favorite things are spending time with my family in the North Carolina mountains and listening to live music at small venues in my hometown of Winston-Salem. I have two dogs, one of which is an ornery rescue chihuahua, who you will certainly get to know if we ever have a Zoom meeting together.


Sara Hemingway
Executive Director
Marilyn and William Young Charitable Foundation

What made you say “yes” when asked to serve on the Philanthropy Southeast Board?
Philanthropy Southeast has been a tremendous resource of both information and inspiration for our foundation. When the opportunity to contribute to the organization with Board service, it was an immediate YES! Representing Kentucky on this Board is an incredible honor.

What in your work at the Marilyn and William Young Charitable Foundation has prepared you for this role?
Implementing a strategic plan as a staff member has assisted me in understanding that both the staff and Board need to work collaboratively to achieve these objectives. I look forward to working with my fellow Board members and the Philanthropy Southeast staff to establish and further the goals of the organization.

Do you have any goals for your first year of Board service?
Although our foundation has been a member of Philanthropy Southeast for over a decade, I realize that we do not take advantage of all the membership benefits. My goal is to listen and learn this first year – learning about the programs and services of our organization while also listening where we can improve, add or eliminate any of them.

What else should our members know about you?
As an 8th generation Kentuckian, I love the Commonwealth. It is where I was born and raised, and I cherish my heritage. This community raised me, helped me raise my children and is supporting me with the care of my elderly parents. The challenges we face are many, but I believe that we are stronger than ever in our will to address societal issues. I believe philanthropy is up for the task and I am prepared to play my part.


Kenita Williams
Chief Operating Officer
Southern Education Foundation

What made you say “yes” when asked to serve on the Philanthropy Southeast Board?
I said yes to joining the Board of Philanthropy Southeast because it is an organization that I truly value and I believe in its mission. I had the opportunity to work on staff, an opportunity many trustees do not get. I've seen firsthand the work, care, heart, and thought leadership that goes into making Southern philanthropy vibrant, more effective, and better connected. When the opportunity arose to help influence, support, and bolster the work of Philanthropy Southeast, it was a no-brainer to dedicate my time and talent to an organization that I love, respect, and see a true need for in our region.

How do you plan to spend your first year as a trustee?
My first year is a time to strike the delicate balance between offering leadership and learning. I have a book on my nightstand called the Listening Leader, which talks about leveraging one of the most vital leadership tools: listening and how listening leads to learning. It encourages us to slow down, be mindful of the space between stimulus and response, and activate our leadership more thoughtfully, intentionally, and strategically. In addition to stepping into support in the places where the Philanthropy Southeast team feels I can bring the most value, I plan to use my first year to listen and learn so that my leadership, guidance and stewardship in future years can be much more informed and impactful.

You previously worked on the Philanthropy Southeast staff. How do you think that experience will inform your work as a trustee?
I have a unique and nuanced understanding of what goes into the programming and offerings of Philanthropy Southeast and all that the staff gives of themselves to support the membership and create conditions for southern philanthropy to thrive. I won't compare myself to other board members, but personally, it makes me vested in the work differently. It allows my trust and confidence in the staff to flow more freely. It makes me feel the bumps and bruises that may come along the way a little more deeply. I think being on staff and having experienced being on the inside gives me a spirit of humility and gratitude that shapes how I show up for the team and the organization overall.

What else should our members know about you?
I'm not a daughter of the South. I'm a transplant from California. But I was very deliberate about choosing to make my home here. It's where I wanted to build my life, career, family, and legacy. I think there's naturally a connectedness through a tremendous sense of pride and resilience that comes with being from the South. But there's also something very special about choosing to be here, choosing to make the region stronger, and choosing to help those situated furthest from opportunity because of the fraught legacy of the South. It's what I've done with my career in education, and it is spirit and dedication that will also extend to my board service.


Connecting with Philanthropy Southeast:
The Philanthropy Southeast staff works remotely – the best way to reach us is by email or by calling (404) 524-0911.

Monday-Thursday from 9:00am–6:00pm (ET)

On Fridays, staff work on a flexible schedule. Members can reach our team via email or by calling (404) 524-0911 between 9:00am and 6:00pm (ET). We will respond to all urgent and time-sensitive matters promptly.

Mailing address:
100 Peachtree Street NW, Suite 2080
Atlanta, GA 30303

Mission: Philanthropy Southeast strengthens Southern philanthropy, welcoming our members to listen, learn and collaborate on ideas and actions to help build an equitable, prosperous South.