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In the Palmetto State, Public Policy Takes Center Stage


For more than a year, SECF has explored ways to emphasize the importance of public policy efforts at the local level, helping grantmakers get involved in the advocacy process in their own state. One state where these efforts have truly taken off is South Carolina. Last week I had the pleasure of attending two advocacy-related convenings in the state – only the latest in a series of several visits focused on policy.

At a June 19 “Advocacy Allies” gathering hosted by Together SC, a membership organization representing nonprofits in the state, nonprofit leaders, including grantmakers, from across the state came together to discuss public policy and advocacy work on behalf of the nonprofit sector in South Carolina. Over 40 attendees provided updates about their advocacy work during the 2019 legislative session and discussed strategies that worked – and lessons learned from those that didn’t. The group also discussed employing a more coordinated advocacy approach that, combined with a sound engagement strategy, would allow them to speak with a collective voice. giving advocacy in the state a more collective voice going forward. The level of enthusiasm at the event was encouraging.

The next day, SECF partnered with the Sisters of Charity Foundation of South Carolina to host a convening in Columbia. Held at the United Way of the Midlands, this gathering brought together grantmakers, nonprofit leaders, state legislators, local government officials and community advocates. During the event, attendees had the opportunity to take a deep dive on the value of collaborations between the nonprofit and policy sectors. They heard from a policy panel of South Carolina state legislators about the importance of storytelling and providing a voice for the interests you represent. They were also treated to an in-depth presentation on advocacy and lobbying by the Women’s Rights Empowerment Network. With a standing room-only crowd, six elected officials and representatives from both U.S. senators’ offices in attendance, the event served as a reminder of the power of convening for an important cause.

At both events, I met folks who appreciated SECF’s involvement and willingness to lend our voice to conversations on the needs of grantmakers and nonprofits in South Carolina. Going forward, we hope events like these continue to spur innovation and a spirit of collaboration that results in foundation leaders working together to protect the sector and assist causes that impact their work.

South Carolina, of course, is only one of 11 states in the SECF footprint – we want to be just as engaged everywhere else in the region. If there are any advocacy-related events happening in your state where you feel SECF can provide support, please let us know!

Matthew L. Evans is SECF's director of public policy and special projects.

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