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Funder-to-Funder COVID-19 Town Hall Highlights Rapid Response Across Region


On March 31, more than 150 SECF members gathered online for a virtual town hall to learn about the work being done across the region to support communities affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Attendees heard from several foundation leaders across the region and had the opportunity to ask questions, get answers and share details of their own work to address the health, economic and equity impacts of the outbreak.

Robert Dortch, vice president of program and community innovation at the Robins Foundation in Richmond, Virginia, said his foundation’s approach was rooted in a question – “What does this mean?” – applies to children, families, schools, communities and nonprofits. The foundation has partnered with the Family Independence Initiative to provide direct support to families affected by the pandemic.

“What we've learned a lot about is compassion,” Robert said. “You're seeing a lot of compassion and a need to come together.”

In Georgia, the Georgia Grantmakers Alliance (GGA) has served a variety of roles for the state’s grantmaking community, director Lydia Clements said. These include acting as a virtual convener, an information hub, a liaison with cross-sector partners and a source of education – all in partnership with SECF. GGA has been especially valuable in keeping Georgia foundations informed about public funding streams created in response to the outbreak.

Gilbert Miller, chair of the Bradley-Turner Foundation in Columbus, Georgia, said funders in the Chattahoochee Valley area of the state are breaking down barriers, inviting public officials, nonprofits and the media into conversations around response, which has included tools like program-related investments.

“It was led very collaboratively,” Gilbert said. “There was no president of this. Funders have had a lot of success in trying to align funding.”

Another alliance has emerged in South Carolina, led by the South Carolina Grantmakers Network. “I have never been prouder to be part of Southern philanthropy,” said Chris Steed, a leader of the Network and executive director of The Fullerton Foundation in Gaffney. Cooperation has already resulted in the launch of the One SC Fund. Quoting Harry Truman, Steed said “it’s amazing what you can accomplish when you don’t care who gets the credit.”

Rural and urban relief has been a focus in Kentucky, where the Grantmakers of Kentucky have worked with the Kentucky Nonprofit Network to quickly gather information on grantee needs. The One Louisville Fund, backed by the city’s mayor, already has the support of public, private and corporate philanthropy in the region. “Communication is certainly the thread through all of this,” said Mason Rummel, president and CEO of the James Graham Brown Foundation. “The humility is extraordinary. People are just rolling up their sleeves and getting it done.”

The virtual town hall was also an opportunity for SECF members to share resources and provide feedback on the best ways SECF can provide support going forward. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, SECF will continue to work with our members to promote a strong, effective and equitable response to this crisis. 

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Southeastern Council of Foundations
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