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Board of Directors

Leslie Smart



Leslie Smart is a seasoned nonprofit leader with extensive experience in a variety of nonprofit sectors and an expansive knowledge of the Kentucky and Southern Indiana donor base.  She has supported over 20 nonprofits in her professional career and volunteer service providing excellence in nonprofit management, donor stewardship, marketing and communications, and fundraising including comprehensive capital campaigns, major and planned gifts, federal and private grants, annual and employee giving campaigns, special events and ethical donor stewardship.  She has a proven track record of success in the industry.

Smart currently serves Chief Executive Officer at the Louisville Ballet and as faculty at the Center for Nonprofit Excellence’s School of Fundraising and Engagement.  She just completed over seven years of service as the president of CHI Saint Joseph Health Foundations overseeing five fundraising foundations across Kentucky and southern Indiana and one grant making foundation, the Legacy Foundation of Kentuckiana (formerly Jewish Hospital & St. Mary’s Foundation).  These foundations provide philanthropic support to the 100+ CHI Saint Joseph Health’s hospitals and care sites serving a patient population in 35 counties.  Smart led a highly skilled fundraising team and collectively their efforts raised nearly $30 million during her tenure.

As past president of a communications and development firm, Smart brings a strong administrative background and an intimate knowledge of best practice to advance philanthropy.  She has supervised fundraising campaigns for Norton Healthcare through the Children’s Hospital Foundation and Norton Healthcare Foundation, Yew Dell Botanical Gardens, Kosair Charities, American Lung Association of Kentucky and the James Graham Brown Cancer Center.  

As executive director of philanthropy for the Children's Hospital Foundation, she supported a $208 million capital initiative for Norton Children's Hospital. She championed an autism project that garnered national publicity on Good Morning America and The Ellen Show.  Prior to this role Smart oversaw a $5.5 million capital campaign and directed all marketing and public relations for Yew Dell Botanical Gardens, a start-up nonprofit.  She launched an award-winning membership campaign funded through the University of California’s Stanley Smith Horticultural Trust and awarded the prestigious “Landmarks of Excellence” award by Kentucky’s Public Relations Society of America and the International Association of Business Communications. 

She has served as a two-term president of the Association of Fundraising Professionals, Greater Louisville Chapter, and the Committee on Directorship for the International Association of Fundraising Professionals.  She holds an advanced certification as a Certified Fund-Raising Executive (CFRE) recognized worldwide, the CFRE signifies a confident, ethical fundraising professional.

Smart earned the 2020 Yearling of the Year Award from the Rotary Club of Lexington, 2020 CommonSpirit Health Phillies Award Top Performing Division, 2011 Frank W. Penick, Founders Award for Excellence in Fundraising Excellence AFP Greater Louisville Chapter, the 2006 Alumna of the Year from the University of Louisville’s Communication Department as the first non-journalist recipient. She is a graduate of Leadership Lexington (2021), Leadership Kentucky (2017), and Leadership Louisville (2013). 

She is a co-founder of Lexington Forward, providing forum experiences for chief philanthropy officers, recently entrusted to CommerceLex.   She currently serves as a board of director for Leadership Kentucky, OperaLex, and Downtown Lexington Partnership.

Smart served as one of the first spouse moderators of the Young President’s Organization’s Bluegrass Chapter. She is a past board of director for the Fund for the Arts, Louisville Ballet, Kentucky Opera, New Opportunity School for Woman, past parish council chair for the Cathedral of the Assumption, and past stewardship chair for Christ the King.

Smart is a graduate of the University of Louisville.  She is also a proud Kentucky Colonel, the highest title of honor bestowed by the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Leslie is married to John Smart and has two grown children, Charles and Emily.  

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