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An Incredible Year Sets Up SECF for An Even Better 2019


When my plane took off from Louisville's airport, I could see the Ohio River and the bridges that spanned it, reaching out into Indiana. The cloud cover was low, and the image quickly dissolved into white, leaving me to reflect on the meeting I was leaving behind.

It's hard to sum up an SECF Annual Meeting. It's one part family reunion, one part conference, one part tent revival, one part continuing education, and one part party. In 72 hours, we cover a lot of ground, and I remain amazed each year by all that happens for the betterment of our membership.

This year, however, felt different. From all corners, I heard talk of a "feeling," of a sense of something intangible that wove itself to the entirety of the event. Attendees felt more "together" than they had in the past, and the conversations outside in the halls were of partnerships and collaborations. Embracing the theme, it is hard to not feel like bridges were being built, or at least, that bridges in disuse were being crossed once again.

Looking back on the year, it is hard not to see those same bridges being built across our entire membership. As chair, the view I am afforded is awe-inspiring, giving me great hope for the times ahead.

In a nation seemingly so divided, we stand out for being united around the common cause of doing good. The effort to collaborate, to hear one another out, and to find shared space to strive for positive change, these are all hallmarks of the Southeastern Council of Foundations. Whether the winds of change blow left or right, we have always stood together, arm in arm, even if we don't see eye to eye.

Now comes a new year, and a new opportunity to do even better. Our renewed focus on public policy will give us the ability to fight for philanthropy at the federal level. Our exploration into equity will give the membership a platform to explore the places where their grantmaking can help bring more people to the table and enable opportunity where it currently doesn't exist.

Most importantly, we will embark upon our 50th year, giving us 365 days to look back and ahead. What decisions brought us here today? What will take us into the future? What has changed for the better? What needs to change for good? This year will be a tremendous opportunity to celebrate our past, evaluate our present, and plan for the future. It would be hard to argue that this isn't happening at a time where philanthropy, and our country, need it the most.

I am as excited and as energized as I have ever been about the work of SECF. It has been my great honor to serve as the Chair of this organization, and I am forever grateful for all that SECF has contributed to my foundation's work over the years.

I hope that you, too, are excited, and I hope you will join with me in engaging one another in the work of Southern philanthropy. If you're interested in serving on one of our committees, participating in one of our webinars, or volunteering for one of our many other programs or meetings, please reach out.

We are who we are because you are who you are. As Janine Lee always says, we are better together. That has been true for the last fifty years, and I hope you'll help make it true for the next fifty.

The Southeastern Council of Foundations continues to help Southern grantmakers write the story of our region. It is my great hope that 2019 proves to be the best chapter yet.

Gilbert Miller, a trustee of the Bradley-Turner and Beloco foundations, is Chair of the SECF Board of Trustees.

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Southeastern Council of Foundations
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Mission: The Southeastern Council of Foundations serves, connects, strengthens and champions philanthropy and philanthropic infrastructure in the South.