Michelle Foster

President & CEO, Greater Kanawha Valley Foundation

Charleston, WV

Shift Capital  |  Funding / Investment

Greater Kanawha Valley Foundation makes thoughtful and proactive investments that grow the multiple forms of wealth necessary for our community to thrive.

Michelle is the President and CEO of the Greater Kanawha Valley Foundation in Charleston, West Virginia.  Prior to joining the foundation in February 2016, Dr. Foster served as the CEO of KISRA (the Kanawha Institute of Social Research & Action, Inc.) for 18 years. She is a consummate, intensely-driven professional with high level analytical, leadership, organizational management, problem-solving and technological skills. Michelle used these skills to transform KISRA into one of the most impactful and enterprising community-based, non-profit organizations in West Virginia. She developed all of KISRA’s programs, which are in the areas of Health, Employment, Asset Development and Learning.  Under her leadership, KISRA grew from one employee sponsored by Ferguson Memorial Baptist Church (KISRA’s founder), to a team of over 60 employees with funding from multiple local, state, and federal sources. The KISRA team now serves and empowers over 2,500 West Virginians annually. Her work at KISRA has been recognized locally and nationally. She was honored as a Fatherhood Champion of Change by President Obama at the White House in 2012. The WV Martin Luther King Holiday Commission honored her in 2016 with the Living the Dream Award. Michelle has a doctorate in community economic development (CED) and two master’s degrees — one in CED and another in engineering management. She is also a certified economic development financial professional and a certified housing development financial professional. Most recently, she completed additional university-level studies in impact investing at the University of Oxford, Saïd Business School as well as in nonprofit management and leadership at Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government. Michelle did not always work in the non-profit sector; she was once a chemical engineer.  Michelle was recruited by Union Carbide Corporation in South Charleston, West Virginia, in 1993 to work in Polymer Processing Engineering department. It was around this time that she also began volunteering on nights and weekends at Ferguson Memorial Baptist Church with their youth and family educational programs. It was through volunteering at the church that Michelle found her true passion in community service.



Greater Kanawha Valley Foundation was created in 1962 by and for the people of the Greater Kanawha Valley area. This area encompasses the following six county region: Kanawha, Putnam, Boone, Clay, Lincoln and Fayette. The Greater Kanawha Valley Foundation is the largest community foundation in the State of West Virginia and celebrated its 50th year anniversary in 2012.

The foundation exists to help individuals, families, businesses, and nonprofits improve the lives within the community now and for generations to come. We assist donors in creating charitable funds, each with its own philanthropic purpose, and provide grants to nonprofits that meet the needs of the community.

The Mission of The Greater Kanawha Valley Foundation is to make thoughtful and proactive investments that grow the multiple forms of wealth necessary for our community to thrive.

These forms of wealth include the individual, intellectual, social, political, natural, built, and financial assets within our community.

The Vision of The Greater Kanawha Valley Foundation is a forward-thinking and closely connected community that fearlessly works together to promote the prosperity of all.