Our History

ABOUT Our History

Our History

Since our founding in 1969, SECF has continually evolved and adapted to keep up with changes affecting the practice of philanthropy and the needs of grantmakers in the Southeast.

  • SECF welcomes its first member from outside the continental United States – the St. Croix Foundation for Community Development. 
  • Diversity, equity and inclusion take center stage as SECF begins development of an Equity Framework for both the organization and its members. The Board establishes an Equity Framework Task Force.
  • The 50th Anniversary Task Force is launched as SECF explores ways to both commemorate its past and look toward the future of giving in the South.
  • Continuing the work started with 2017’s “Passing Gear” report, SECF works with state associations to convene events throughout the region exploring how Passing Gear principles can be applied on the ground. In Atlanta, “Breaking Through Barriers: Forging a Path to Philanthropic Success in the South,” brings national and regional funders together, ushering in a new era of possibilities for partnership and collaboration.
  • SECF partners with MDC to produce the landmark report, Philanthropy as the South’s “Passing Gear”: Fulfilling the Promise, which examines progress made and challenges faced since the first Passing Gear report in 2007. 
  • SECF’s communications undergo a refresh. The weekly e-newsletter is renamed Connect and its quarterly magazine is now called Inspiration. SECF launches its new blog, Engage, featuring first-person perspectives from members
  • SECF adopts a position statement on endowed philanthropy and engages members in public policy throughout the year leading up to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017.
  • SECF expands its membership to include the first philanthropic individual members. Giving circles and state/local grantmaker associations are also eligible for membership.
  • The inaugural edition of the Southern Trends Report debuts online, positioning SECF as the go-to source for research and data on Southern philanthropic trends.
  • SECF conducts a Membership Market Analysis to gather feedback from members, seek input on future programming, assess opportunities for membership growth. 
  • SECF releases a Value Proposition statement anchored around five aspects of the value it provides to members: Regional & National Connections, Leadership Development, A Southern Perspective, Promotion & Defense of Philanthropy, Best & Next Practice.
  • SECF retains 96 percent of its members amid an increasingly competitive landscape of philanthropy supporting organizations.
  • SECF’s offices move from the Hurt Building to the 100 Peachtree Building in the historic Fairlie-Poplar district of downtown Atlanta. 
  • The Hull Fellows Alumni Network is launched to provide opportunities for past Fellows to continue to connect with each other beyond their program year. To date, the Network includes over 300 past and current Hull Fellows. 
  • SECF approves a new Strategic Plan that will guide the organization’s work through 2020.
  • Advanced Leadership Institute launched, aimed at providing executive education for mid-career professionals in philanthropy. 
  • SECF’s communications are refreshed and enhanced, with updates to the weekly Connections email and Interchange magazine, as well as higher-quality program materials.
  • Public policy offerings revamped as Policy in Action 2.0, including Foundations 101 and 201 seminars for Congressional staffers. Initial Public Policy Institute held in Charleston, SC. 
  • Creation of full-time staff position focused on public policy.
  • SECF adopts position statement calling for simplification of the private foundation excise tax. 
  • SECF develops Affinity Group Business Plan as a framework for fostering local and regional affinity groups within the Southeast.
  • Karen McNeil-Miller elected SECF’s first African American board chair.
  • SECF partners with the Council on Foundations to launch "Foundations 101” meetings which engage more than 125 congressional and foundation staff around the region.
  • SECF launches first e-magazine, SECF YouTube channel and mobile app at the Annual Meeting.
  • SECF adopts position statement calling on lawmakers to preserve the full scope and value of the charitable deduction.
  • Pete McTier serves as SECF’s interim President & CEO. 
  • Grantmakers of Kentucky holds inaugural meeting in Louisville, KY. 
  • Janine Lee becomes SECF’s President & CEO, first female and first African American and only the fifth in 42 years.


  • Georgia Philanthropic Initiative launched by SECF, renamed Georgia Grantmakers Alliance and holds inaugural meeting in Macon, GA.
  • Grantmakers of Kentucky formed by SECF.
  • SECF holds inaugural CEO Forum, Jacksonville, FL.
  • SECF launches its 2010 – 2013 Strategic Plan.
  • SECF holds inaugural Conference on Investing.
  • Hull Fellows Program redesigned adding mentors, Capstone projects and webinars throughout the year.
  • Michael R. Howland, CAE, succeeds Mr. Lehfeldt  as President & CEO. 
  • SECF sets attendance records for Foundations on the Hill and the Annual Meeting.


  • SECF launches series of Accountability Workshops and a self-assessment tool for foundations.
  • SECF develops "state captain” model for Foundations on the Hill, tripling member participation.


  • SECF issues first electronic Member Advisory, the subject: governmental interest in the sector.
  • SECF holds inaugural Family Foundations Forum in Point Clear, AL.
  • SECF creates new "Health Legacy Foundation” group among members.
  • SECF introduces sponsorship program for Annual Meeting to generate non-dues revenue.
  • SECF develops and delivers continuing legal education courses in partnership with bar associations in nine states.
  • SECF implements a comprehensive technology plan.
  • SECF conducts first independent member survey.
  • SECF launches its first website and e-newsletter.
  • SECF helps launch the Georgia Rural Philanthropy Initiative with the Sapelo Foundation.
  • SECF publishes first edition of Southern Philanthropy: A Regional Overview.
  • SECF publishes the Southern Toolkit for Giving.
  • As part of the Southern Philanthropy Consortium, SECF publishes The Philanthropy Index for Small Towns and Rural Areas.
  • SECF launches Hull Leadership Development Program.
  • SECF helps to launch and staff Florida Federation of Community Foundations.
  • New Ventures in Philanthropy and Ford Foundation award grants to SECF to continue work of Southern Philanthropy Consortium.
  • Ford Foundation awards grant for SECF work with new health care foundations in region.
  • SECF increases dues for private foundations and changes dues calculation for community foundations to an asset-based formula.
  • Martin C. Lehfeldt succeeds Mr. Hull as President.
  • Membership adopts Strategic Plan.
  • Voluntary contributions from members to honor Mr. Hull create endowed Hull Leadership Development Program.
  • New Ventures in Philanthropy awards SECF planning grant to establish.
  • Southern Philanthropy Consortium (with Southern Rural Development.
  • Initiative and Collaborative of Mid South Community Foundations to promote formation of new philanthropy in rural areas of South.
  • Grant from C. S. Mott Foundation enables SECF to begin program to "increase philanthropy" in the South.
  • Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation grant leads to creation of Community Foundation.
  • Alliance of North Carolina to promote increased giving to that state's community foundations.
  • Board increases its membership from 18 to 21.
  • SECF launches Community Foundation Initiative with special funding from Robert W. Woodruff and other foundations.
  • Association welcomes West Virginia as part of its service area.
  • Board adopts first Strategic Plan.
  • Martha Peck of Burroughs-Wellcome Fund becomes first female board chair.
  • Development of graduated dues system, based on grantmaking activity.
  • Corporate giving programs admitted as members.
  • Robert H. Hull succeeds Mr. Rooks as President of SECF.
  • Charles Rooks becomes first paid Executive Director of SECF.
  • 46 initial members pay annual dues of $75.
  • 75 foundation representatives gather for SECF's first Annual Meeting.
  • William H. Bondurant begins two-year service as volunteer Executive Director.
  • In response to passage of the Tax Reform Act, 24 foundation leaders meet to establish Southeastern Council of Foundations.

Southeastern Council of Foundations
100 Peachtree Street NW, Suite 2080
Atlanta, GA 30303

Visiting SECF:
All staff are working remotely at this time but can still be reached via email and by calling (404) 524-0911.

Monday-Thursday from 9:00am–6:00pm (ET)
Friday from 9:00am–12:00pm (ET)

Phone: (404) 524-0911
Fax: (404) 523-5116

Mission: SECF strengthens Southern philanthropy, welcoming our members to listen, learn and collaborate on ideas and actions to help build an equitable, prosperous South.