SECF Member Highlight: Kristen Keely-Dinger


This is the last in a series profiling the new members of SECF's Board of Trustees announced at the 51st Annual Meeting following a vote by SECF members.

Kristen Keely-Dinger was already intimately familiar with SECF and its staff by time she was approached to serve on the Board of Trustees – she was months into her service as chair of last year’s Annual Meeting.

In the midst of that experience, the decision to accept a nomination to the Board was an easy one, she said.

“After having the opportunity to work with the staff and the planning team at SECF for this year’s annual meeting and watching the flexibility and the adaptability of the staff, I felt confident that I could learn from and contribute to the organization in meaningful ways,” Kristen said. “I am also a big supporter of the Equity Framework that SECF has adopted and am excited to learn from my peers and the team at SECF as we continue to implement the framework throughout the organization.”

Equity has been on Kristen’s mind frequently in the past year. As the president and CEO of The Healing Trust, based in Nashville, she has helped lead a transformation in the foundation’s work – a transformation that accelerated in the wake of this summer’s racial justice protests.

“Almost all our grants now and going forward will be unrestricted. Our partners need to know we trust them, and we understand that they also need the same flexibility to respond to their changing environment,” she said. “The pandemic has both highlighted and exacerbated the needs of historically uninvested in and marginalized communities and has underscored the urgency of our work on equity.”

Kristen says her experience as a foundation CEO will also affect her work on the SECF Board.

“I know what has been most helpful to me, as a leader, from my board, and I look forward to being that supporter, cheerleader, sounding board, and colleague,” she said. “I also believe board meetings should build relationships and include fellowship, even on Zoom, so I look forward to getting to know my fellow Board members and the SECF staff in a deeper way.”

While Kristen says she plans to be diligent in her first year of Board service – focused on listening to staff and other Board members, studying documents and more – she does have a more light-hearted side that might not be immediately obvious.

“I was once a prankster, but that ended up getting me in trouble more times than I care to admit, so I have toned that down quite a bit,” she said. “Pre-pandemic, when we were physically in our offices, I would often interrupt our program team with a dance party outside their door. Also, any opportunity to wear a wig or come to work in costume, I’ll take it.”

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Southeastern Council of Foundations
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