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.

Member Highlight: Rhett Mabry

Category: Member Highlight, 
Author: Southeastern Council of Foundations


More than four years ago, The Duke Endowment was among a small group of foundations that came together to form Blue Meridian Partners, described at the time as "a new funders collaborative that aims to invest $1 billion in high-performance nonprofits poised to have national impact for economically disadvantaged children and youth."

Since then, Blue Meridian has evolved from a collaborative to an independent nonprofit organization making both national and regional investments -- the latter category includes the Get Ready Guilford Initiative, spearheaded by The Duke Endowment, which seeks to support the physical, social-emotional and cognitive well-being of children from birth to age eight in Guilford County, North Carolina.

The Duke Endowment's strategy for Get Ready Guilford aims to accelerate existing local efforts to improve early childhood outcomes—including healthy births, infant/toddler development, school readiness, and success by third grade—by bringing evidence-based programs to greater scale in these areas, improving the quality of local programs and catalyzing collective impact efforts.

In a recent interview posted at the Blue Meridian Partners website, Duke Endowment President Rhett Mabry said Get Ready Guilford and other programs like it are a direct result of working with other foundations through Blue Meridian -- The Duke Endowment is now one of the organization's Regional Partners.

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Member Highlight: Terry Mazany

Category: Member Highlight, 
Author: Southeastern Council of Foundations


At a time of increased scrutiny of community foundations and the funds they support, Terry Mazany, senior vice president of philanthropy at the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta, understands some of the questions foundations like his are facing.

"A community foundation has a dual mission to serve the community, where the needs are expressed, and the contributors of the capital, the donors," he told Nonprofit Quarterly in a recent interview. "And when it becomes narrowed to only one, the community foundation, I think, loses its ability to be maximally impactful to add the greatest value to the community."

An overemphasis on donors is just one recent criticism of community foundations. Others have been calling for greater regulation of donor-advised funds, including disclosure of donors. Some foundations have been criticized for managing funds that give to organizations considered hate groups.

Terry says the responsibility for rising above these attacks -- and confirming the place of community foundations as an engine for public good -- will require strong leadership focused more on impact than assets. Do that, he says, and "the money will follow."

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Member Highlight: Allen Mast

Category: Member Highlight, 
Author: Southeastern Council of Foundations


At last month's Annual Meeting, SECF members elected three new leaders to the Board of Trustees. We've profiled each of them here over the last three weeks.

As senior vice president at SunTrust's Foundations & Endowments Specialty Practice, Allen Mast doesn't work with just one foundation -- his work, which ranges from advising to board service, puts him in touch with a large and varied group of funders throughout the region.

Having first-hand experience working with so many foundations will undoubtedly help Allen as he begins his first term on the SECF Board of Trustees.

"The breadth of philanthropic interests that we see, and the variety of issues that we are often asked to address, has afforded me the opportunity to learn about many different programmatic areas plus a great deal about the technical aspects of foundation work," he said. "When I first entered the field, [former Foundation for the Mid South President] George Penick shared with me a simple, but profound, insight: Don't forget, when you have seen one foundation, you have seen ONE foundation. My current work confirms, on a daily basis, that each foundation is unique, with its own philanthropic mission and goals."

Allen has long been a fixture within the SECF network. He attended his first Annual Meeting in 1994, an experience he says cemented his closeness to the organization.

"I will never forget that first meeting," he said. "I was so impressed and moved by everyone's commitment to making the South a better and more equitable place. From that moment on, I knew that I wanted to join in and do my part."

Allen went on to participate in the Hull Fellows program and serve on multiple member committees. These experiences, he says, made it easy for him to agree to be nominated for the Board when asked.

"SECF has played a pivotal role in my development, both professionally and personally," Allen said. "As a result, my rule of thumb is to support SECF at every opportunity because really good things come from that support."

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Member Highlight: Hope Blackley-Logan

Category: Member Highlight, 
Author: Southeastern Council of Foundations


At last month's Annual Meeting, SECF members elected three new leaders to the Board of Trustees. Between now and the end of the year, we're profiling each of them here.

SECF has long prioritized public policy – and so does one of the newest members of the Board of Trustees, Hope Blackley-Logan.

Politics and policy are at the center of Hope's life. While she serves as a trustee of the Mary Black Foundation, she works full-time as district director for Rep. William Timmons, a Republican representing South Carolina's 4th Congressional District, which includes both Greenville and Spartanburg.

Having observed the political process firsthand, Hope encourages SECF to be determined and organized in pursuing policies that support foundations and charitable giving.

"I would love SECF to approach policy with the perspective that it is our job to not tire, to be persistent, and to have a pointed plan in addressing the needs of the SECF and those we serve – a knowledgeable plan with easy-to-follow talking points that show the strength and wealth of foundation work and will leave a lasting impression," she said.

Before joining Rep. Timmons' staff, Hope served as the appointed Clerk of Court in Spartanburg County. She also has a long history of work supporting the victims of crime, particularly children, and has served on multiple boards of community and professional organizations.

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Member Highlight: Jerry Gonzalez

Category: Member Highlight, 
Author: Southeastern Council of Foundations


At last month's Annual Meeting, SECF members elected three new leaders to the Board of Trustees. Over the next three weeks, we'll profile each of them here.

Jerry Gonzalez already wore a few hats before he was elected last month to the SECF Board of Trustees -- and each of them place him at the center of changes taking place within the South and Southern philanthropy.

Jerry is a trustee of the Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation based in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Jerry is among several non-family trustees of the family foundation, giving him a unique perspective he hopes is helpful to the SECF Board.

The Babcock Foundation is also one of the most vocal funders in the region on the subject of equity, especially racial equity. SECF's own work on equity, particularly the recently announced Equity Framework, played a key role in accepting an invite to join the Board, Jerry said. 

"Given that SECF is leaning more into equity and what that means to funders across the Southeast, I felt it was a good opportunity to lend my perspective in the movement forward of this wonderful organization," he said. "It was with great enthusiasm that I accepted to be a part of that change evolving at SECF!"

As a Babcock Foundation trustee, Jerry says he's learned a lot about power dynamics, both within a family foundation and between a foundation and its grantees.

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SECF Staff Highlight: Marianne Gordon

Tags: SECF Staff 
Category: Member Highlight, 
Author: Southeastern Council of Foundations


Note: This week’s Member Highlight uses excerpts from a profile of Marianne that will run in the next issue of Inspiration, SECF’s quarterly magazine, coming out later this month!

While SECF’s 50th Annual Meeting will mark the beginning of a new chapter, it’s also the end of an era: It will be the final Annual Meeting for SECF’s Marianne Gordon, who has overseen planning of the South’s premier philanthropic event for 21 years.

Marianne first brought her talents to the Annual Meeting in 1998 as an outside contractor. Within a few years, it was clear that she was the perfect match for planning the annual event. In 2002, she became SECF’s full-time director of meeting planning, a role she has held ever since.

With 21 Annual Meetings under her belt – and one more on the way – Marianne has seen the event grow and evolve in a number of ways. 

“I would say that the biggest change is the number of sessions and level of speakers we have to offer our members during the Annual Meeting,” Marianne says. “The second biggest would change would be in the diversity of the attendees we now have at the Annual Meeting.”

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Member Highlight: Imoni Smith

Tags: SECF Staff 
Category: Member Highlight, 
Author: Southeastern Council of Foundations


This fall will be a big one for SECF, culminating in the 50th Annual Meeting this November in Atlanta. While that means more work than usual, the SECF team will have some extra support thanks to Imoni Smith, our fall intern.

Imoni, a senior at Georgia State University’s Andrew Young School of Policy Studies, says her academic work helped lead her to SECF.

“I took a policy leadership class during my junior year in college. The entire class was dedicated to leaders in the sector, mainly nonprofits and foundations,” she says. “Every foundations’ employees spoke to the class with a passion that made me curious about philanthropy. The curiosity turned into me pursuing an internship in philanthropy. During the search, I found SECF.”

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Member Highlight: Dr. John Lumpkin

Category: Member Highlight, 
Author: Southeastern Council of Foundations


In April, the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation welcomed a new president, Dr. John Lumpkin.

In a recent Q&A released by the foundation, John said he is joining at a critical time for North Carolina. The state is currently debating whether to expand access to Medicaid.

“I am excited about the opportunities we have in front of us at the foundation to be able to participate in improving the health of North Carolinians,” he said. “Many national health policy experts are looking to North Carolina for good reason. The foundation has helped to set the stage for transformation of the systems that impact health in the state.”

Though John had an accomplished career in medicine – he was the first African-American trained in emergency medicine in the country after completing his residency at the University of Chicago – he has no shortage of philanthropic experience. Immediately before taking on his new role, he spent 15 years at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF).

John said his experience at a national funder offers plenty that can be applied at a state-based foundation.

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Member Highlight: Juanita Floyd

Category: Member Highlight, 
Author: Southeastern Council of Foundations


Regular readers of the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal are no doubt familiar with Juanita Floyd – she’s an established presence in the newspaper’s opinion section, where she serves as a community columnist.

Juanita’s column doesn’t provide sharp-tongued opinions on the political issues of the day, however. Instead, she is a voice of encouragement, urging readers to do good on behalf of their community, fight against injustice and make a positive impact on the lives of others.

“Each one of us can promote love instead of hate; promote equality and justice instead of injustice; ease suffering instead of inflicting pain; pull our neighbor and community up instead of pushing them down; build relationships with each other; and heal wounds instead of inflaming them more,” she wrote in 2018. “It is our responsibility to make a difference while we live.”

Juanita’s late mother, Bernice, is a common presence in the column. Juanita notes that despite living through the worst days of Jim Crow, she chose to focus on the good in the world and was “a change agent” in her own right.

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Member Highlight: Amy Mandel

Category: Member Highlight, 
Author: Southeastern Council of Foundations


The Amy Mandel and Katina Rodis Fund, based out of Asheville, North Carolina, has a very specific mission: supporting social justice work that advances LGBTQ rights, forwards racial justice and combats anti-Semitism on a global, national and local scale. While the organization supports dozens of organizations around the world, Asheville and its surrounding areas in Western North Carolina get special attention – more than 20 nonprofits in the area have benefited from the Fund's work.

Last month, in a series of posts on the website for one of the foundation's programs, the Tzedek Social Justice Fellowship, Amy wrote an extended essay on her life and how she has leveraged her privilege to promote equity.

"In hearing others describe what led them to do what they do, I have come to see the importance of telling my story and sharing publicly why I do what I do," Amy wrote as she introduced the series. "My hope is that sharing the paradoxes and questions I sit with is a step towards the transparency and accountability which are so essential for building trust and community."

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