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At a Glance

Things I Can Help You With:

Professional development opportunities for emerging leaders and beyond.


Katie Brisson spent 24 years at the Community Foundation for Southeastern Michigan, including 11 years as Vice President, Program. Katie led oversight of a 22-person department that implements core grantmaking programs and initiatives of the foundation. She built a strategy for grantmaking during a key period of growth; total grants reached $100M+ annually during her tenure. In her role, Katie was known for launching key foundation collaboratives such as the Michigan Opioid Partnership, Project Play: Southeast Michigan, the Michigan Justice Fund, the Pontiac Funders Collaborative and the Detroit Journalism Engagement Fund.

Katie previously served as a consultant to the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, and as chief lobbyist for the Maryland Food Committee in Baltimore, where she worked on hunger and poverty issues at the state and national levels. She has a Masters in Policy Studies from The Johns Hopkins University, a Masters in Legal & Ethical Studies from the University of Baltimore, and a Bachelors in Sociology from Western Michigan University. Katie lives in Ferndale with her husband Gerry, who also works in the nonprofit sector. They have four children.

Get to know Katie

Describe what you do in your role.

As a Senior Fellow, I am a philanthropic practice resource for CMF and the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation (RCWJF). I offer direct support to the CMF Fellowship Program, which is designed to support emerging leaders with the experience and skills to advance their careers in the sector while making meaningful contributions to their home foundation and the larger nonprofit community. I provide curated professional development support and mentoring to the cohort of fellows. I also support key initiatives at the RCWJF.

What do you enjoy the most about your work?

I enjoy meeting and connecting people who are working toward similar goals, but in very different ways. I enjoy learning every day about new and evolving opportunities and issues that face our community. I enjoy supporting philanthropy to be nimble and flexible with its resources in order to leverage funding from a range of other sources.

What are the causes you’re most passionate about?

I am most passionate about finding ways for people from across communities, with diverse experiences and perspectives to come together and work together, leading to action for the good of the whole community.

What inspires, challenges or motivates you?

My husband and children inspire and motivate me. Our home is my safe space to reflect on the wide range of issues we face in the field of philanthropy. They encourage me to keep expanding my perspective and work to achieve my personal capacity, doing what I can in my role to address community needs. I try to keep myself challenged by building deep relationships with people who have different points of view than I do.

What do you love about Michigan?

As someone who grew up in the Lansing area, lived in Marquette and then Kalamazoo after high school, resettled in metro Detroit later in life, married a Yooper (whose Dad still lives in Baraga), and have family I regularly visit near Alpena, I can firmly state that I love and appreciate all parts of the state! Wherever I have lived in Michigan, I have loved the nature, the people, and yes, even the weather.

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