Donna is a member of the Lumbee tribe who was born and resides in the tribe’s ancestral home of Pembroke, Robeson County, North Carolina. Donna has been a leader in the national environmental justice movement since its beginnings in Eastern NC in the 1980’s. As Co-Founder of Robeson County’s Center for Community Action in 1980, Donna was engaged in multiple toxic and nuclear waste environmental justice campaigns throughout the 80’s and 90’s.
As a commissioner on the United Church of Christ’s Commission for Racial Justice, she played a significant role in the Commission’s environmental justice work including as a member of the Planning Committee for the First National People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit in 1991.
She was the founding Director of the national racial and economic justice program of the Fellowship of Reconciliation, directed the cultural programming office of the North Carolina Indian Cultural Center, and served as Executive Director of NCGives.
She has served on multiple foundation boards of directors, many of whom have been leading funders in the fields of environmental and social justice, including the Jessie Smith Noyes Foundation, the Fund of the Four Directions, the Fund for Southern Communities, and the Changemakers Fund. When elected Chair of the Board of Directors of the Jesse Smith Noyes Foundation, she became the first Native American to chair a major, national foundation board.
Other boards on which Ms. Chavis has served include: Robeson Health Care Corporation; the Robeson County Humane Society; NC Center for Nonprofits; the National Advisory Committee for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities childhood obesity initiative; Planned Parenthood of Central North Carolina; and the Wildacres Leadership Initiative.
In her current role as Senior Fossil Fuels Campaigner for Friends of the Earth, Donna led the campaign to halt the construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, the only pipeline on President Trump’s list of 50 National Security and Infrastructure Priorities. Born to the Lumbee people, she resides in her home territory of Pembroke, North Carolina with her spouse, Mac Legerton. They are the parents of four and grandparents of four children. She graduated from the University of North Carolina at Pembroke with a BS in Math and Psychology.