733. His Vision: Helping Make the Non-profit and Philanthropic Sectors Stronger
“The second ‘aha’ for me was recognizing the power that exists in the non-profit sector. It gives me life and it gives me energy. The non-profit sector and the organizations that are in it aren’t just nice to have. We need to have them in order to come up with real solutions to the problems we face. I wanted to get more involved in those larger conversations, and that’s another reason I was motivated to make this move.”
Forrest Alton has been in the non-profit sector for more than 15 years. Most recently he served as CEO of the South Carolina Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, where his leadership resulted in significant growth for the agency, which is now recognized as a national leader on issues related to adolescent health. After 10 years in the C-Suite, Forrest stepped down in 2016 to focus his energy on his new enterprise—1000 Feathers. His goal: to help make the non-profit, social and philanthropic sectors stronger by training and developing leaders, helping organizations think and act more strategically, posing difficult questions organizations are typically afraid to ask and encouraging big, bold courageous conversations.
How Did You Start Using Your Talents?
“In late 2002, after I had moved to Columbia, South Carolina, I was introduced to Susan Boyd, the CEO of the South Carolina campaign to prevent teen pregnancy. She offered me a graduate assistantship at the University of South Carolina, because she had heard about the work I had done in Georgetown with the small nonprofit there. Between 2002 and 2007 I had a half dozen different positions in the organizations and by 2007 was promoted to CEO.”
The Most Impactful Turning Point?
“After graduating from Coastal Carolina with a degree in Health Promotion, I emailed one of my professors and said I was moving back to New York because I was unable to find meaningful work. She emailed back that she had just helped a small nonprofit in Georgetown, South Carolina, obtain a grant to work on teen pregnancy prevention. She didn’t know if I’d be interested at all but she knew they were hiring and she’d love to make an introduction. That was in March, 2000, and for the next 17 years of my life I was committed, dedicated and focused on the issue of teen pregnancy prevention in South Carolina.”
The Most Powerful Lesson Learned?
“I grew up in a tiny town in upstate New York—La Fargeville, which had fewer than 700 people. My mother was the school principal, my father was the banker and I had two older sisters. I often say my upbringing was as close to the “Leave It to Beaver” family as you can get—close knit, loving and considerate. My high school graduating class had 30 kids. The basic lessons I learned from this upbringing laid the foundation for my life.”
Steps to Success from Forrest Alton
- Realize that you are not alone on your journey.
- Continually be open to new relationships that are mutually beneficial and grow your Rolodex early on!
- Reach out to people who are in areas of work you are interested in—pick their brains. Most people love to share their experience.
- Always be open to the possibilities and never be afraid to take a chance on an opportunity that feels right to you.
Connecting With Forrest Alton
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