Brushy Fork Annual Institute

Community Foundations and Community Transformation

Track Leader: Katharine Pearson Criss

This is a hands-on workshop about how to use a community foundation as a vehicle for community transformation. Learn about why philanthropy matters to all of us and how each of us can contribute to realizing a common vision for our communities. See how local citizens can organize around local issues to yield social, human, and economic capital in their community.

Track Limit: 20

What past participants are saying:

“I am always inspired when I attend Brushy Fork. I learn so much from the sessions, from the networking, and from the resources available. Thanks for filling my mind with future possibilities for our community and the determination that it can be done.”


Katharine Pearson Criss has served as vice president of the Center for Rural Strategies since 2004.  Initially, Katharine directed the community philanthropy initiative for which she directed a video and edited a book of stories about communities in Kenya and East Tennessee, “Donors Ourselves”  She has continued her work on community philanthropy and community development as a steering committee member of the Rural Development Philanthropy Collaborative.  As the facilitator of the National Rural Assembly Steering Committee, she has helped develop and produce two national meetings – the last June 2011 had 342 participants.  Presently, she is assisting in the development of a sustainability plan for the Center and in board development.Katharine is the founding executive director (1985-1997) of the East Tennessee Foundation, which serves 25 counties that are mainly rural, now celebrating twenty-five years of philanthropy in East Tennessee. In 1995, at the invitation of the Ford Foundation, she traveled to Kenya for the first time to help Kenyan leaders explore the possibility of establishing their own community foundation. Katharine later became the Ford Foundation’s representative for Eastern Africa (1998-2003), where she focused on helping build community philanthropy. While there, Katharine initiated the Africa Philanthropy Initiative and helped in the creation of the East Africa Association of Foundations and Trusts. She also created a new program for arts and culture, was a member of the community development affinity group, co-chaired the worldwide philanthropy learning group and convened the all-Africa directors and program officers meet.Katharine is a former president of Appalshop (1981-1984), the Appalachian arts and media center based in Whitesburg, Kentucky, and founder of The Play Group, Inc. (1974-1984), a community-based arts organization and theater company.  Prior to that, Katharine worked at the University of Tennessee in Student Affairs.  Katharine has served as a member of the National Advisory Board for Rural LISC, a member and chairman of the board of the Southeastern Council of Foundations, and a board member of Winrock International. She currently serves as a board member of Humanities Tennessee and as an advisory board member for Double Edge Theater.  She is a member of Leadership Knoxville Alumni Association, the Executive Women’s Association, and is a Founder of the Women’s Fund of East Tennessee.Katharine is a native Tennessean – growing up in Collierville and attending the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. She is a member of the Class of 84 Alumni Association, which supports a scholarship fund. Katharine holds a bachelor’s degree in English and a master’s in theater from the University.  She is married and has a son who is currently residing in Kenya with his wife and daughter.

Katharine wants the Women’s Fund to reach its goal of 10 million dollars in ten years and be a real resource – the kind of grants that are made will be very important.  One of Katharine’s goals is to edit a new collection of essays – “Donors Ourselves, Volume II” and have them written by women from rural communities around the world.

Berea College Logo


Copyright © 2013 Berea College