Mourning the loss of a truly exceptional leader

Have you ever had one of those moments where the sky seems less bright, the hill gets suddenly steeper and energy appears to decline as if there is less oxygen to breathe? I felt that way when I got an email June 13 telling me that Laurie Moran had passed away.

I know I was not alone in that feeling of loss. Many of us knew that Laurie had been fighting cancer for some time. She did not hide her illness, nor did she use it as a way of asking for sympathy. Laurie faced cancer the way she faced many things, head on without making a big deal out of it.

And she seemed to be beating it. I watched her come back from earlier rounds of treatment and we all hoped her progress would continue.

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CEO Forum Provides Chance to Discuss Challenges of Leadership – and Solutions

The benefits of association are – according to much of the literature on foundation philanthropy – among the most powerful tools for learning and professional development in the field. Interaction with colleagues offers valuable opportunities for building networks that are useful over the long term. SECF’s recent CEO Forum, held last week in Charleston, South Carolina, was no exception.

More than 40 foundation chief executives gathered over two days to study, reflect and share their experiences and thoughts on the future of philanthropy in the United States. Phil Buchanan, president of the Center for Effective Philanthropy, discussed the findings of one of the Center’s recent research projects, The Future of Foundation Philanthropy: The CEO Perspective. The survey data, collected from foundation leaders across the country, provided the perfect backdrop for helping us think about our own effectiveness.

Among the findings were a perception that we could be doing more than we are, that our impact could be greater and that we have control over our perceived barriers. The personal reflections of national foundation leaders contained in the report reminded us that we are not alone in our challenges and opportunities for growth and impact. Our colleagues share many of the same challenges, though our roles in our communities vary widely. Some of us are seasoned and some are new to the role and to the field. That mix of experience and fresh perspective enriched the conversations.

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Three Ways Funders Can Plan Now For Above-Normal Hurricane Season

With the kickoff of hurricane season on June 1, forecasters at NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center say the Atlantic could see another above-normal hurricane season this year. Here is a snapshot of their predictions for the season that runs through the end of November:

  • 45% of an above-normal season
  • 70% likelihood of 11 to 17 named storms
  • 5 to 9 of which could become hurricanes
  • 2 to 4 of which could be major hurricanes (Category 3, 4, or 5)

NOAA predictions also included the eastern Pacific and central Pacific hurricane basins.

  • An 80% chance of near or above-normal season is predicted for each region.
  • Central Pacific model predicts 5 to 8 tropical cyclones including tropical depressions, tropical storms, and hurricanes.
  • Eastern Pacific prediction model:
    • 14 to 30 named storms
    • 6 to 11 of those becoming hurricanes
    • Including 3 to 7 major hurricanes

So what’s a funder to DO?

  1. Prepare, prepare, prepare – If you live in a coastal area, ensure that your continuity of operations plans (COOP) are up to date, your communications strategies are current, your plan for engaging internal and external stakeholders is in place, and you know how and when to reach out to your existing grantees to offer them support and guidance.

  2. Update your disaster grantmaking plan – If you don’t have a plan for how to allocate grants before, during, or after a disaster, draft one. Know what dollars are available to grant to hurricane preparedness or recovery activities, and have an eye for which organizations you would likely support in case of a disaster. CDP is happy to help you develop your plans.

  3. Call the Center for Disaster Philanthropy – The team at CDP would welcome a conversation around effective hurricane philanthropy. We can help you identify grantees, craft a grantmaking strategy, provide you with timely and relevant disaster information, and support you and your community before, during, and after a major storm hits.
Regine Webster is the vice president of the Center for Disaster Philanthropy. This post was originally published on the Center for Disaster Philanthropy's blog.

Getting to Know SECF

If you’re new to the SECF family, or are considering applying for membership, we want to make sure you know everything that makes SECF a grantmaker network like no other.

Last week, we hosted “Getting to Know SECF,” a webinar highlighting the people, programs, events and benefits that have made us one of the strongest and most vibrant grantmaker networks in the country, one that has continued to attract new members all while hitting a 96 percent retention rate in the last year.

If you couldn’t make this webinar, or joined us but would like to review what makes SECF membership so valuable, you can view the entire presentation below. Our speakers included me, as well as SECF President & CEO Janine Lee, Senior Director of Programs & Partnerships Dwayne Marshall, Director of Marketing & Communications David Miller, and three members of the SECF Board of Trustees – Bob Fockler of the Community Foundation of Greater Memphis, Stephanie Cooper-Lewter of the Sisters of Charity Foundation of South Carolina, and Gilbert Miller of the Bradley-Turner Foundation.

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A One-Stop Shop for Community Foundation Pros

Working in the community foundation field is one of the best jobs anyone could have. To spend your days in service to your community is a privilege.

But community foundations are complicated animals. All those funds! All those laws! The learning curve is steep for those new the field. Even community foundation veterans who are experts in their job may not really understand all the aspects of a community foundation.  

At the Indiana Philanthropy Alliance we are fortunate to have the resources to develop a two-day curriculum we call “Boot Camp.” We love sharing this with the community foundations around the country. We get to meet fantastic, dedicated professionals and volunteers. We are excited about our upcoming trip to Orlando to present Boot Camp on June 20-21.   

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Responding to Our Members' Needs with Relevant Programming

SECF has long demonstrated a high level of commitment to being responsive to the educational needs of its membership. As part of our recently conducted biennial member survey, we intentionally asked our members to provide feedback on what programming offerings they would most like to see delivered in the near future. The purpose was to ensure that our programs were both relevant and in alignment with our member interests.

We received a robust number of suggestions that have aided us in the planning and design of our in-person and virtual programming activities over the course of 2017. As our member survey key findings report indicates, there a few top areas of interest that our members expressed. We have aimed to be responsive to these interests based on our recent and upcoming programs.

1. Successful Grantmaker Collaborations

In February of this year, SECF partnered with the Center for Effective Philanthropy (CEP) to deliver a webinar titled “Working Well with Grantees.” The discussion was moderated by Kelvin Bolduc, Vice President, Assessment and Advisory Services, at CEP and featured two leaders from SECF member The Healing Trust: Kristen Keely-Dinger and Jennifer Oldham. Kristen and Jennifer both profiled some of the best practices that they have implemented in order to enhance their effectiveness with their grantee partners.

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SECF Announces Keynote & Plenary Speakers for 48th Annual Meeting

Today, SECF is proud to announce a compelling and diverse lineup of keynote and plenary speakers that will headline the 48th Annual Meeting taking place November 14-16 in Orlando, Florida.

The array of speakers taking the main stage will include national thought leaders, experienced practitioners, and inspiring storytellers.

“SECF members attending the Annual Meeting will hear powerful insights and expert advice from the lineup of speakers we’ve assembled,” said Janine Lee, SECF’s president and CEO. “The quality of our lineup is also a testament to the quality of our members and to the quality of the Annual Meeting itself. We look forward to presenting an event where grantmakers will hear new ideas on the future of our field and come away inspired to take their work to new heights.”

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Grantee Inclusion: An Adaptive Challenge

Last month, I was fortunate to attend the Grantee Inclusion Workshop in Savannah, GA, made possible by a partnership between SECF and Grantmakers for Effective Organizations (GEO). The Mary Black Foundation, like many foundations in the Southeast, has been following the work of GEO and has been particularly interested in best practice research around how to meaningfully engage grantees.

The Grantee Inclusion Workshop was perfectly designed to facilitate thinking about why grantee inclusion is important, what organizational changes might be needed to better engage grantees, and how foundation staff can lead those changes.

The Challenge

According to GEO, 53 percent of staffed foundations solicit feedback from their grantees and use that information to shape their policies, programs and strategies. Yet, surveys of foundation staff and nonprofit leaders demonstrate a disconnect between grantmakers’ view of themselves and how nonprofits perceive grantmakers regarding openness to discussing a variety of topics.

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Reinventing Food Banks

Stephen ShermanLast week I had the opportunity to attend a forum From Feeding People to Ending Hunger: Reinventing Food Banks, a forum hosted by the Social Enterprise program at Emory University’s Goizueta Business School. The panelists represented organizations working to address hunger at the national, state, and local level and provided a layered perspective on strategies for ending hunger in the U.S.

The event included remarks from Kim Hamilton, Chief Impact Officer at Feeding America, Jon West, Vice President of Programs at the Atlanta Community Food Bank, and Jeremy Lewis, Executive Director of Urban Recipe.

Each of these organizations is doing its part to fight hunger: Feeding America is a nationwide network of 200 food banks and 60,000 food pantries and meal programs that provides food and services to more than 46 million people each year. The Atlanta Community Food Bank is part of Feeding America’s network and partners with more than 600 nonprofit partners to distribute over 60 million meals to more than 755,000 people in 29 counties across metro Atlanta and north Georgia. Urban Recipe operates within a unique co-op model in which each family served becomes a member of a 50-family co-op that meets biweekly to apportion donated food.

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Six Years Later, Hull Fellows Experience Continues to Make an Impact

Editor’s Note: SECF is now taking applications for the 2017-18 class of Hull Fellows! Click here for more information and to submit your application. Applications are due Friday, April 28!

I won't say that I was cocky or that I believed I knew all I needed to, but there was a large part of me that understood philanthropy as a simple and straightforward mechanism of American society. If the me of ten years ago was questioned, I would, more than likely, admit that the world of organized philanthropy was as about as complex as grass farming. Plow ground, sew seeds, water in, wait eight weeks, and bam...grass.

My year in the Hull Fellowship program changed this view completely. Not only did I discover that large social issues are a bit more complicated than basic agriculture, but also I found that many of the solutions I touted had been tried repeatedly, with little to no success. I learned that my family's foundation was as unique as it was common, that many of the issues we faced had been addressed by other family foundations in the past, and that many of our quirks were our very own. There were literally hundreds of insights on operations and governance. I imagine the virtual lightbulb above my head burning with a blinding light by the end of my fellowship year.

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Introducing Inspiration: SECF’s New Quarterly Magazine

Inspiration Vol. 26 No. 1 coverThis week SECF published the first issue of Inspiration – a new quarterly magazine focused on sharing rich stories of Southern Philanthropy, with a focus on collaborations, innovation and the embrace of new trends and emerging best practices.

Replacing our previous magazine, Interchange, Inspiration features a modern design built from the ground up. We plan to make greater use of graphics, photos and other visual elements, to complement written stories of how Southern grantmakers are transforming lives and communities.

Of course, many of the features from Interchange that SECF members know and love will continue to be part of Inspiration. These include a thoughtful message from President & CEO Janine Lee, updates on new members and new hires, and regular profiles of SECF members who are doing great things at their organizations.

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Listening Our Way to More Effective Grantmaking

Melinda TuanListen for Good (L4G), the centerpiece of a fast-growing collaborative of foundations putting feedback on the front lines of effective grantmaking, is opening its ears even wider.

The program, sponsored by Fund for Shared Insight, has announced its second, national, open request for proposals, with plans to make more than $3.3 million in grants to 75 nonprofits dedicated to listening systematically to the people they seek to help.

The new money and focused attention on feedback comes as the field continues to evolve amid growing interest and greater recognition of the benefits of listening – and acting on what is heard. A recent study by the Center for Effective Philanthropy found that 99 percent of nonprofits collect feedback from the people they seek to help, using a variety of methods, including focus groups, surveys, and one-on-one conversations.

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Philanthropy 'Not Out of the Woods' on Tax Reform

Today SECF members in metro Atlanta had the opportunity to hear from one of the country’s leading experts on the tax reform debate in Washington and how it could affect endowments and grantmaking.

Sandra Swirski, with Urban Swirski & Associates, told attendees that there was still a clear path forward for tax reform legislation that could cause problems for endowed philanthropy. “We are so not out of the woods,” Swirski said.

Swirski’s presentation came at the first of a series of Federal Policy Luncheons, which aim to keep members informed on the political and policy landscape in Washington. Today’s event in Atlanta will be followed later this year by another luncheon in Charlotte on Tuesday, August 22.

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Helping Grantees Bridge the Gap – Literally

Erin DreilingSince the bridge collapsed on I-85, my commute has been 10 minutes longer even though I live on the south side of Atlanta. Each day, my coworkers share travel horror stories around the water cooler about grueling trips to Buckhead for meetings that take an hour and attempts to get to Roswell that end in frustrated banging of the steering wheel. We are lucky that we work for an understanding organization. But what about those that are not in that situation?

For some, this issue is not about inconvenience or funny memes on Facebook. Perhaps they are docked pay for being tardy, no matter the reason, or are paid hourly. Maybe they were already traveling an hour to get to work and now they are faced with double that - complicating second jobs, child care and responsibilities. In short, complicating life.

To purchase a monthly transit pass for April, May and June at $95, it will be $285. It’s harder to measure gas costs for other commuters who will sit in extra traffic or face a longer route to work. But let’s say that the I-85 collapse will cost the average commuter $300. For some, that $300 might as well be $3,000 or $300,000. For households living paycheck to paycheck that are already facing adversity, it’s almost insurmountable.

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Bringing a Little Heart & Soul to South Carolina

In April 2016, I had the good fortune of being a part of the Aspen Institute's pre-conference for rural philanthropies at the Council of Foundation’s annual conference in Washington, D.C. As someone new to philanthropy, I came looking for place-based organizations who were using community indicators or other population-level data to measure impact. Having recently left the helm of South Carolina's early childhood agency, First Steps, I knew the value of trending data over time to measure the progress of our state against important benchmarks. 

Data brings partners together for action. Data illuminates needs and shapes policy in powerful ways. 

The J. Marion Sims Foundation, a health legacy foundation created by the sale of Lancaster's Elliott White Springs Memorial Hospital in 1995, had begun to think about new ways of measuring results. Just as important, the foundation was also re-doubling its commitment to collaborate with partners in nonprofit, public, and private sectors for greater community impact.

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How to Get 11,000 People Talking

On Wednesday, March 15, at the invitation of Blue Grass Community Foundation in Lexington, Kentucky, 11,000 citizens joined with their neighbors, colleagues and friends, over a cup of coffee or a meal, to discuss the city’s quality of life – what’s makes it great and what could be done to make it even better – more sustainable, just, safer, stronger and vibrant.

On the Table, a new community engagement initiative sponsored by the community foundation, invited everyone to participate by hosting or attending a mealtime conversation. The result: more than 1,000 small group conversations in a single day, just 10-12 friends gathered around a table with simple food or drink, having an informal conversation about what matters most as they discussed Lexington’s future.

Why On the Table? At the community foundation, we have a commitment to growing more generous, engaged and vibrant communities. We know big ideas can spring from small conversations and people invest in what they help create. When we come together as a community to listen to and learn from each other, we have the power to impact both neighborhoods and lives. That’s what On the Table is all about.

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Staying in Touch With Philanthropy

“Let’s stay connected!”

I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard and overheard phrases like this exchanged among SECF colleagues. Our members crave connection with one another for a variety of reasons. Some appreciate the opportunity to learn and share information about best practices. Others enjoy the camaraderie of friends and colleagues who share a common passion and purpose. Some relish the tailor-made resources and network of potential collaborators. Still others rely on their SECF relationships to build networks beyond their local geography. For most, it’s a combination of the above.

For all these reasons and more, SECF serves as a source of deep and lasting regional connections. Through relationships, conversations, events, reports, newsletters and more, we’ve built a network like no other. And now, we’re pleased to introduce another way to communicate with peers, learn from experiences and opinions, and share stories: ENGAGE, the SECF blog.

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