Susan Jenkins - Listening to Understand

Susan Jenkins started and led the Cherokee Preservation Foundation for twelve years. The Foundation’s mission is to preserve native culture, protect natural environments and create economic opportunities for the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) and its neighbors in WNC. During her tenure, the Cherokee Preservation Foundation made more than 700 grants valued at over $60 million, with an impact of over $150 million to the Qualla Boundary and WNC. She also developed deep partnerships, including one with CFWNC that continues today.

She was instrumental in the creation of a funding collaborative to support capacity building for nonprofits that developed into WNC Nonprofit Pathways. In a dynamic that continues, she says, “The funding partners and the grantees learned from each other.”

Susan is put her extensive experience in the far western counties and her nonprofit experience to work as a CFWNC board member. She served on the Distribution Committee where her unique perspectives, rooted in her experience and based on listening and collaboration, are deeply valued.

“I am a member of the Choctaw Nation in Oklahoma, and it has influenced my life and the way I work with people. I try to listen to understand rather than to respond,” she explained. “I think that funders today are transitioning from transactional grantmaking toward more balanced relationships that consider the culture of the nonprofit and devote the time and deep listening to bring about understanding and successful outcomes.”

In 2019, Susan opened an expectancy fund with CFWNC. “During estate planning, my attorney suggested that I consider opening an expectancy fund. After years of collaboration, I felt completely comfortable working with CFWNC to plan my charitable legacy. The staff listens and helps donors design plans around their charitable goals, and this matters to me.”