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: 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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Member Highlight: Andrea Young Kellum

Category: Member Highlight, 
Author: Southeastern Council of Foundations


"Capacity-building" is a term heard often anytime enough grantmakers are in the room. The general idea -- investing in the infrastructure of a nonprofit organization, as opposed to a specific program -- is a firmly established trend.

But what does it actually look like in practice? And how can a desire to boost nonprofit capacity be balanced with the need to invest in programs that directly support people in need?

These are difficult questions, but Southern grantmakers aren't shying away from them. At the Healthcare Georgia Foundation, senior program officer Andrea Young Kellum has devoted plenty of thought to the subject -- in fact, her reflections on the topic have received attention on the national level. A blog post she wrote last year, The Audacity of Building Capacity, was recently featured in a newsletter from Grantmakers for Effective Organizations.

"Our current funding strategies reflects the Foundation's values and commitment to place- based grantmaking and to supporting programs that address health equity, thereby reducing health disparities," Andrea wrote. "So one may question why, given all of the pressing health issues and disparities in Georgia, does the Foundation have the audacity to support capacity building?"

The answer, she writes, is simple: "We believe that strengthening nonprofits not only helps us to achieve our mission, but that providing organizations with the tools and resources necessary to build their capacity to better fulfill their missions' leads to stronger organizations, programs, and ultimately, better health outcomes for Georgians."

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Member Highlight: Lewis Whitfield

Category: Member Highlight, 
Author: Southeastern Council of Foundations


Convening power is one of the greatest assets a foundation has -- by leveraging its reputational capital, funders can bring people from different sectors, and possessing different viewpoints, together for conversations that boost a sense of community and can even inspire collaborative action.

The CREATE Foundation in Tupelo, Mississippi, recently tapped into its convening power by holding a summit for educators and business leaders to discuss how schools in the region are addressing the needs of students and connecting them with jobs.

The foundation's senior vice president, Lewis Whitfield, spoke at the event. He said the summit aligned well with the foundation's mission.

"CREATE Foundation's Commission on the Future of Northeast Mississippi has been focused on lifting the personal incomes of the people of our region -- primarily by helping improve the educational attainment levels of our population," he said. "Community foundations are a great source of data on key issues. Moreover, they are uniquely positioned to provide a forum for nonthreatening discussion of these underlying data and the issues. We believe in being a convener and catalyst for these discussions, but we also realize that without cooperative community partners our effectiveness would be limited."

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Member Highlight: Alicia Philipp

Category: Member Highlight, 
Author: Southeastern Council of Foundations


This week, in the offices of the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta, the Host Committee for SECF's 50th Annual Meeting convened to begin planning how this historic celebration will showcase its home -- a diverse, thriving hub for the entire region and a city where philanthropy has played a major role in revitalization and renewal.

Who could lead such an effort? One of the first names to come to mind was Alicia Philipp, the longtime president of the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta -- not only is she one of the city's most prominent philanthropic leaders, but she's also one of the city's biggest civic boosters.

A recent Atlanta magazine profile of Alicia noted that "she's done more to change the Atlanta region than most elected officials ever could," adding that the foundation under her leadership "has become one of the largest philanthropic organizations in the Southeast -- donating an estimated $100 million a year to nonprofit and faith-based organizations."

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Member Highlight: Marianne Smith Edge

Category: Member Highlight, 
Author: Southeastern Council of Foundations


The Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky recently added significant health expertise to its Board of Directors with the appointment of Marianne Smith Edge.

Marianne, from Owensboro, is a registered dietitian who founded The AgriNutrition Edge, a communications consulting firm that helps food and agriculture companies navigate the complex consumer food environment.

A sixth-generation farm owner, Marianne is no stranger to food systems and agriculture. She writes about them, and their connection to nutrition, often on the AgriNutrition Edge website.

"Will the crops we raise today actually sustain the health and well-being of our nation and the world? Are we raising food for nutrient benefits or economic gain? Is having an affordable and safe food supply enough?" she asked in one post. "These are all complex questions without simple answers! Resolution comes with understanding our food systems and consumer concerns. It will do us well to reconnect ourselves and ‘meet at the table' with our neighbors and communities."

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