BY Tere Figueras Negrete, Senior Communications Director


When Tené Traylor was hoping to join the team at the Kendeda Fund, she had one final hurdle: a breakfast meeting with founder Diana Blank, whose personal wealth fueled Kendeda’s impressive grantmaking across a host of environmental and social causes.

“I was extremely nervous. Because I had a picture of a very, just, elaborate person,” Traylor recounted in an episode of the podcast Stories from the Kendeda Fund. “I needed her to have on a big hat and at least dark shades.”

She was anxiously scanning the restaurant in search of someone who fit her mental image of a glamourous socialite when a decidedly down-to-earth – and plainly dressed – woman greeted her.

“I was walking back to the front of the restaurant and this woman looked up at me with the biggest smile, and she was like, Tené?” prompting Traylor to wonder: “How does this random woman know who I am?”

The woman introduced herself simply as Diana.

“An overwhelming sense of ease took over me. Because she was exactly who I wanted her to be, but exactly who I had not imagined her to be,” said Traylor, who now oversees Kendeda’s Atlanta portfolio.

Traylor’s story is just one of the many candid, insightful and frequently funny stories captured in the nine-part series chronicling Kendeda’s 30-year philanthropic journey.

The Atlanta-based foundation, a member of The Funders Network, has committed to spending out the majority of its assets by the end of this year. By that time, the foundation anticipates its total grantmaking will have exceeded $1.2 billion.


The Kendeda Fund’s founder, Diana Blank, and her daughter, Dena Kimball, the foundation’s executive director.

Photo credit: Kendeda Fund

In the series’ debut episode, Blank sits down with her oldest daughter and the fund’s executive director, Dena Kimball, for a wide-ranging conversation about Kendeda’s origins, its impact and what it means to give away more than $1 billion in your lifetime.

“I am just this person who had this money to give away,” said Blank in the episode, who confessed an initial ambivalence to the wealth she acquired after amicably divorcing her husband, Home Depot co-founder Arthur Blank, in the early 1990’s.  “I didn’t want my friends to look at me differently. I just wanted to be treated as a person and not as a philanthropist.”

Three decades later, Kendeda’s grantmaking now supports a number of core issues, including efforts to prevent gun violence, help veterans heal through nature , empower girls across the globe, and place-based grantmaking focused on Atlanta and Montana that prioritizes issues of equity, livability and improved connections to the natural environment. Kendeda is also home to the People, Place and Planet program, which aims to address social and ecological challenges – such as the climate crisis and economic inequities – through community-based solutions and leadership. (The People, Place and Planet program is led by Diane Ives, who sits on the leadership committees of TFN’s GREEN working group and Partners for Places grant program.)


The podcast series covers a range of issues, including the second episode titled “Towards Equity: A Grove Park Story.”

Stories from the Kendeda Fund, executive produced by Kimball and Kendeda’s communication lead, David Brotherton, includes episodes on a range of topics, including economic inequity in Atlanta’s Grove Park neighborhood, the power of documentary films to shift narratives, and constructing the greenest building in the Southeast.

Blank, who calls Kimball “her guiding light,” also shares her thoughts on the spend-out in the series.

“There is a current thinking now, instead of having these legacies that go on and on, from generation to generation, to do it now. Because there’s a need now,” she said.

Kimball, who is also Kendeda’s Fund Advisor for Girls’ Rights, assured her the team is up to the challenge.

“We’re landing the plane. It will be landed by the end of 2023,” she tells her mother. “I want you to know that you can enjoy your coach seat. Look out the window, take a nap, eat some peanuts. The team, collectively, we’ve got this.”

Listen: Stories from the Kendeda Fund is available on Spotify and Apple Podcasts.

➡ Go deeper: Read this excellent story about the Kendeda Fund and Diana Blank’s philanthropic journey by The Chronicle of Philanthropy’s Drew Lindsay.

➡ Stay connected:  Join Kendeda’s mailing list for more insights about the spend-out. If you aren’t already subscribed, go to their website and add your email to the pop-up prompt.