Introducing Kerri Forrest: Vice President of Grantmaking and Community Leadership

“The one thing people have said to me over and over is, ‘that seems like the right fit!’”

Kerri Forrest is Coastal Community Foundation’s new Vice President of Grantmaking and Community Leadership. Once the official announcement was made, the enthusiasm from the community about this new hire was abundantly clear.

“I would hope it means that people are seeing the work that I’ve done,” Forrest said, “and they see the potential for that good work to continue.”

Kerri Forrest was born and raised on James Island and has more than a decade of experience in the nonprofit sector. However, her professional career began with 16-years in the journalism field, working as a producer at national broadcast outlets MSNBC, NBC News and CBS News. In over a decade covering all the news that took place in Washington D.C., Forrest says she realized that her heart was pulling her from behind a news desk and into the places where change was taking place.

“I was covering all these things as an impartial third party, but I wasn’t involved in anything,” she said. “You can either stand on the sidelines or you can get in the game. I wanted to see how I could take all those years of experience in D.C. and come home and contribute.”

Returning home to James Island included opportunities at a variety of local organizations, including the Charleston Area Urban League, American College of Building Arts, the Art Institute, and College of Charleston. After about three years, Forrest says she really found her footing firmly back in the region as the Lowcountry Program Director for the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation. Here, she was able to recognize the unique value that a former journalist can bring to the nonprofit space—understanding how to process and translate volumes of information into a digestible format the community can easily understand. She says this was especially valuable when communicating the Donnelley Foundation’s land conservation efforts.

“It’s being able to drop into a topic and understand not only the relevance to the field, but what the relevance is for our community. Then working with partners to tell the story where people get it,” Forrest explained. “When you ask people, they care about having marshland available so it absorbs water when we have flooding or hurricanes. When you ask people about protecting beaches, or the need to protect farmers and agriculture, those are easier terms for most people to digest than talking about plats and acres and climate derivatives, and all of these other larger terms that are not part of the regular lexicon.”

After the Donnelley Foundation, Forrest moved to MDC where she was tasked with developing and implementing new programs to support equity-centered leadership and philanthropy. While this work was innovative and fulfilling, Forrest realized that serving a large Southern region made her more disconnected from the issues happening in the local community. As CCF’s VP of Grantmaking and Community Leadership, she is trading a 13-state region for the Foundation’s nine-county footprint and can be focused on the unique challenges and solutions for issues right here at home.

As she looks forward to her future at CCF, Forrest says she is most excited to continue her work inside the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor (which stretches down South Carolina’s entire coastline), and tackle issues like preservation of place, affordability, and coastal resilience. She has jumped into her work at CCF with both feet, with plans to listen and connect on the full spectrum of issues important to donors, nonprofits and community stakeholders.

“I really do appreciate how Coastal Community Foundation is being so deliberate and innovative about how to address issues in the community and I am looking forward to being a part of that,” she said. “I may not be able to have the solution to every problem, but that doesn’t mean I’m not willing to be a thought partner. It’s about the connection. If I have the ability to work with organizations or community members and really bring them together in that way, then I feel like I’m still of-service.”

As the Vice President of Grantmaking and Community Leadership, Kerri Forrest will lead CCF’s grantmaking and scholarship programs, strengthen and grow the foundation’s relationships within the community, while encouraging diversity, equity, and inclusiveness. To get in touch, email

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