Engage - The SECF Blog


SECF's Blog

Engage, SECF’s blog, is a space for SECF members, staff and partners to share their thoughts on the latest trends and best practices in philanthropy. Engage is also used for important announcements about upcoming SECF events and programs.

Do you have a story or insight you’d like to share with our members on Engage? Contact David Miller, director of marketing and communications, at david@secf.org or at (404) 524-0911 to discuss your idea.

October 2019 Public Policy Update

Category: Public Policy, 
Author: Matthew L. Evans


Beginning this month, SECF will provide members with monthly updates on the latest public policy developments in Washington and state capitols around the region, analyzing their possible impact on the charitable sector. If you would like to see an issue featured in a future Public Policy Update, contact Matthew L. Evans, SECF's director of public policy and special projects, at matthew@secf.org.

From Recess to Recess

After a few weeks in Washington following the end of the August recess, members of Congress are once again in their districts for a two-week recess covering the Jewish high holidays as well as Columbus Day. The House and Senate will return to work October 15 with several items relating to philanthropy vying for space on the agenda. Here's a look at what SECF members may see during the remainder of the session.

Must-pass legislation

Congress averted a government shutdown last week when the Senate passed a temporary spending bill that was later signed by President Trump. However, that bill's funding expires November 21. This legislation will allow lawmakers more time to finish the annual appropriations process. If regular appropriations legislation is not passed by then, lawmakers may pass a short-term continuing resolution, or CR, to keep the government operating at current funding levels.

Beyond these spending bills, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) must be passed by January 1, 2020. This legislation has successfully made it through Congress for 60 years. The House and Senate have passed separate versions of the legislation, but significant policy differences have not yet been resolved. 

Congress will be busy working on several other must-pass items, as well. Those include reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank, the National Flood Insurance Program, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, and the extension of some health policy provisions set to expire this year.

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SECF Meets with House Ways & Means Committee Member in Florida

Category: Public Policy, 
Author: Matthew L. Evans


Earlier this month, SECF was among a group of other charitable organizations that met with U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-FL) in Orlando, Florida. Murphy heard from us as we discussed the current state of giving, nonprofits and grantmaking in her district, and possible legislative proposals that would encourage increased giving throughout the country.

Rep. Murphy shared her concerns with us and acknowledged the importance of the work grantmakers do in Florida and across the South. She provided advice on the best ways to share our message with her congressional colleagues so they, too, may get a better understanding of how the charitable sector works to uplift communities across the country. 

SECF is grateful for the opportunity to meet with Rep. Murphy, beginning a dialogue with her office that will continue in the months ahead. SECF is also working with allies in the sector through the Charitable Giving Coalition, a group dedicated to preserving and expanding the charitable deduction. We will continue working with colleagues to reach out to members of Congress and inform them about sound public policy that seeks to uplift charitable giving.

If you would like to learn more about SECF’s public policy work, or would like support engaging with policymakers, including scheduling in-district

meetings with members of Congress, please send an email to matthew@secf.org

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

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In the Palmetto State, Public Policy Takes Center Stage

Category: Public Policy, 
Author: Matthew L. Evans


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.

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Public Policy Briefs – June 2019

Category: Public Policy, 
Author: Matthew L. Evans


Periodically, SECF will provide members with updates on state and federal legislation that affects philanthropy. If you have questions related to public policy, or know of legislation at the federal or state level you would like SECF to know about, please contact Matthew L. Evans, director of public policy and special projects, at matthew@secf.org or (404) 524-0911.

House Committee to Hold Hearing on UBIT Next Week

House Ways and Means Oversight Subcommittee Chairman John Lewis (D-GA) has scheduled a hearing for next week on changes to the Unrelated Business Income Tax (UBIT) that could affect foundations and the nonprofits they support.

The hearing, taking place Wednesday, June 19, will focus on the 21 percent tax on transportation-related fringe benefits that was applied to tax-exempt organizations as part the 2017 tax bill. This tax has received significant scrutiny and criticism from the charitable sector, leading many lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to call for its elimination, with several members in both chambers introducing repeal legislation.

SECF has called for the repeal of these provisions, and Lewis’s office has reached out asking for specific examples and/or member concerns about the effect of UBIT changes on organizations within the 11-state footprint. If you would like to share an example about how UBIT is affecting your foundation or grantees, please contact Matthew L. Evans, director of public policy and special projects.

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Youth Organizing Can Be a Powerful Strategy for Funders

Author: Eric Braxton


Part of the power of youth organizing is that it connects individual transformation to systemic change, and supporting youth-led change is an important grantmaking strategy. It brings together the right people with the right strategies to create social change and protects our other investments by cultivating a leadership pipeline for the future. From the Civil Rights Movement to current efforts for safe communities and just schools, young people from across the South have always been at the forefront of advocating for just and equitable communities. Building on this proud tradition, a new generation of Southern young people is leading efforts to advance health, justice, equity and dignity. At the same time, new research is showing that engaging young people in organizing to create lasting change in their communities is one of the best ways to support their development. Youth organizing efforts in the South have succeeded in achieving real change for their communities such as:

The Funders’ Collaborative on Youth Organizing (FCYO), in collaboration with Grantmakers for Southern Progress, The Highlander Research and Education Center, Project South, The Southeastern Council of Foundations, Southern Echo, Inc., Southern Vision Alliance and The United Way of Greater Atlanta is holding a funder briefing on June 4 from 10:00am to 5:00pm at the Loudermilk Conference Center in Atlanta, Georgia, to engage with youth leaders and local and national funders to discuss how to support young people as drivers of community change across the South. We urge funders across the region to join us.

Attendees can expect three takeaways from this interactive day:

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State Policy Briefs - May 2019

Category: Public Policy, 
Author: Matthew L. Evans


Periodically, SECF will provide members with updates on state legislation from the Southeast and beyond that affects philanthropy. If you have questions related to public policy, or know of legislation at the federal or state level you would like SECF to know about, please contact Matthew L. Evans, director of public policy and special projects, at matthew@secf.org or (404) 524-0911.

Mississippi Law Will Encourage Gifts to Community Foundation Funds

Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant recently signed a law (SB 2210) creating the Endow Mississippi Program. The legislation creates a program designed to “promote philanthropic investments in local community development programs and activities, and to enhance the quality of life for Mississippi's children, families and communities.” The law allows Mississippi tax payers to claim a tax credit for gifts made to endowed funds held by community foundations in the state.

Written as a program for corporate income, individual income, and trust income tax purposes, the law provides for a tax credit equal to 25 percent of a qualified contribution to a fund at a qualified community foundation, subject to certain requirements.

The Mississippi Alliance of Nonprofits and Philanthropy and its affinity group, The Community Foundation Network, were strong advocates for the legislation, working tirelessly with legislative leaders in both the Mississippi House and Senate to help promote and get the bill passed.

The Mississippi Alliance of Nonprofits and Philanthropy has provided more information about the legislation on its website.

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Five Reasons My Foundation Will Be On the Hill

Category: Public Policy, 
Author: Russell Carey


It was a moment from an Aaron Sorkin script. “Walk with me,” Rep. French Hill said as we entered the Members Only elevator. Hill, a Republican who represents central Arkansas, including Little Rock, had been buzzed for a floor vote but wanted to learn more about Expect More, our foundation’s new economic equity initiative. As we speedwalked the halls of Congress, I talked about our vision for Arkansas. Through echoing tunnels we discussed how it connected with his workforce agenda. As we arrived at security, I offered some ways we could be a resource in the future. Cue the music.

Moments like this are more common than not at Foundations on the Hill (FOTH). FOTH is a two-day event that brings foundation leaders to Washington, D.C., for meetings with Congress about key issues for foundations and philanthropy. The time my organization, the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation, spends at FOTH each year is intense, exciting, and incredibly valuable. There’s a multitude of reasons you should be there. I’ve tried to narrow it down to my top five:

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The Community Foundation Case for Attending Foundations on the Hill

Category: Public Policy, 
Author: Sutton Mora Hayes


Hopefully by now you have received an email (or two or three) from SECF encouraging you to attend this year’s Foundations on the Hill (March 11-13). I have a feeling that a lot of you are in the “kind of interested” camp or the “maybe I will go next year” camp. Anyone from any type of foundation would benefit from attending, but I specifically want to encourage my community foundation colleagues to consider joining us in Washington, D.C. this year. Community-driven philanthropy is facing some special challenges, and it is important that we have a strong showing on Capitol Hill.

So, why should you attend? Let me break it down into four points:

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New UBIT Guidance May Offer Relief for Foundations, Grantees

Tags: SECF Staff 
Category: Public Policy, 
Author: Matthew L. Evans


SECF has been closely tracking developments related to changes affecting the Unrelated Business Income Tax (UBIT) – you may have joined the webinar we hosted last week on this topic. Today, we wanted to share with you some good news that may help your foundation and its grantees.

Since the start of 2018, organizations that offer employees transportation or parking benefits are subject to a 21 percent Unrelated Business Income Tax (UBIT) on those benefits – this is a significant change that would increase the UBIT owed by many organizations and lead other nonprofits to pay UBIT for the first time. Nonprofits would have to determine the value of any provided transportation and parking benefit. This is especially problematic for organizations in rural or suburban areas that, for example, have an employee parking lot.

New rules issued by the Treasury Department this week, however, allow for organizations to net their parking and transportation expenses against any other income subject to UBIT, which could wipe out any tax.

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Reading Between the Lines: 2018 House Leadership Elections

Category: Public Policy, 
Author: Sandra Swirski & Sara Barba


This week, lawmakers returned to Washington after a two-week Easter recess, and House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) rattled Capitol Hill when he announced he won’t seek reelection this November. In this week’s column, we’ll dig deeper into the race for power in Congress.

Paul Ryan Out

On Wednesday, Speaker Ryan told colleagues he’ll retire at the end of his term, opening up the top leadership post in the Republican party. Now, Ryan faces a decision between being a “lame duck” speaker into January 2019 or holding leadership elections in the coming weeks. Staying on as speaker would avoid a party-splitting leadership race during a critical campaign year, but it also means he holds less leverage among his colleagues.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) are the two most likely candidates for the position. Keep in mind, McCarthy made a bid for speaker in 2015, but ultimately fell short. Scalise said he won’t challenge McCarthy for the job, but he is expected to step in if McCarthy falls short again.

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