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.

50th Annual Meeting Speaker Highlight: Shan Arora

Author: Southeastern Council of Foundations


The 50th Annual Meeting includes some new items on the agenda, including a series of intimate Salon Dinners on Thursday night that will allow small groups of attendees to explore key issues and converse with thought leaders at unique locations throughout Atlanta.

One of those venues, the Kendeda Building for Innovative Sustainable Design, is meant to inspire change across the entire Southeast. Built to the world’s most rigorous sustainable design and performance standard for buildings, it will harvest more energy than it uses on site through renewable sources and collect, treat and reuse more water than it needs on an annual basis.

The building, located on the Georgia Tech campus, opened in September, marking a significant achievement for Shan Arora, the building’s inaugural director. In a recent article reflecting on the building’s opening, Arora focused on how it can promote health and happiness.

“The first thing visitors typically notice is the amount of wood -- a natural material known to have a calming effect on humans. Or else it’s the daylight and the view of trees through the very windows that are letting the light in,” he wrote. “For most people, it’s only a matter of time before a relaxed smile spreads across their face.”

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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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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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The Rise of Impact Investing in the Southeast: Are we really scaling philanthropy?

Category: Investing, 
Author: Mark Crosswell


In contemplating the degree to which impact investing influences philanthropy in our region, the blog last fall suggested that innovative forms of capital are slowly creeping into the thought of foundation leaders and organizations. Impact investing trends are continuing to show a hockey-stick swing upward – yet, we have to ask, is it really scaling social good? 

Reviewing the market overall, global impact investments of all types - including Environmental, Social & Governance (ESG) and Socially Responsible Investing (SRI) - has tripled to nearly $12 trillion since 2015. This incredible growth is fueled by institutional and individual investors interested in aligning mission with money by investing in over 600 socially-minded funds and other private investments. 

In the U.S., community-based impact investments, which is capital invested by community development lenders, credit unions and others investors in low-income communities, now exceeds $180 billion, a three-times increase since 2014. These are primarily driven by place-based investors seeking greater impact and scale in areas such as affordable housing, charter schools, healthcare clinics and job creation among small businesses in economically-deprived areas, often at below-market rates of return. 

As important, there is a form of wholesale capital that supports the institutions making community investments, which comes from foundations, commercial banks, impact funds and public sector partners who share an interest in creating social change along with a financial return. The trends are showing no signs of slowing (see US SIF reports) and new entrants continue to join the market from all corners of the investment world, including university endowments, religious organizations, development authorities and many others. 

So what’s happening in the Southeast? We have a number of exciting, ecosystem-level initiatives underway in the region:  

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11 States in 11 Months: Southern Philanthropy in... South Carolina

Category: 50th Anniversary, 
Author: Southeastern Council of Foundations


Note: This post is the ninth in a series that will run throughout our 50th Anniversary year. Each month, we'll focus on philanthropy in one of the 11 states in the SECF footprint, using both current and historical data while highlighting a variety of voices. This month's state: South Carolina.

South Carolina Philanthropy Snapshot

First SECF Members: The Self Family Foundation, The Springs Close Foundation (Founding Members – joined 1970)
Newest SECF Member: Jolley Foundation (joined February 2019)
Number of SECF Members: 34

Learn more about South Carolina foundations from SECF’s Southern Trends Report!

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50th Annual Meeting Speaker Highlight: Anne Wallestad

Author: Southeastern Council of Foundations


Of all the relationships within a foundation, the one between trustees and the CEO may be the most critical. Funding decisions, operations, culture, mission and vision can all be affected by how a board and a top executive work together – or don’t.

BoardSource, the sector’s leading voice on nonprofit board leadership, focused on this relationship in last year’s report, Foundation Board Leadership: A Closer Look at Foundation Board Responses to Leading with Intent. At this year’s Annual Meeting, BoardSource President & CEO Anne Wallestad will lead trustees in a conversation around the report’s findings and explore how they can build better relationships with foundation executives.

Developing a strong and effective board, Wallestad has argued, is about more than expertise in grantmaking or managing an endowment. Great board leadership, she has said, requires purpose, values, flexibility and – once those qualities are established – building power and influence.

“By defining your core purpose, you’re able to get very clear on what’s most important in terms of your work -- what’s absolutely central in terms of what you seek to accomplish, as well as what’s not,” Wallestad said at BoardSource’s 2017 Leadership Forum. “Defining your core purpose, and doing so with the full engagement and participation of your board, unlocks new clarity, meaning, and forward momentum, and is a critical first step in unleashing the full leadership potential of your organization.”

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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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Introducing the 2019-20 Class of Hull Fellows!

Tags: Hull Fellows 


In two months, the 2019-20 class of Hull Fellows will gather at SECF's 50th Annual Meeting to kick off the next chapter of the South's premier philanthropic leadership development program! The 25 men and women below will spend a year exploring their own leadership style while learning more about best practices and trends in philanthropy, the opportunities and challenges present in the South and ways they can help push philanthropy to new heights as they continue in their careers.

Following a two-day kickoff at the 50th Annual Meeting, the 2019-20 Class will participate in monthly webinars on a variety of topics, attend a Spring 2020 leadership retreat, and work in groups on capstone projects that will be presented at the 51st Annual Meeting in Nashville. Each Fellow will also be paired with a Hull mentor who will over advice and guidance during the coming year and beyond!

If you know a member of the new Hull class, send them a note of congratulations!

Special thanks to SunTrust Foundation for its ongoing support of SECF’s Hull Fellows Leadership Program

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SECF’s Southern Trends Report Updated with New Data

Category: Research & Data, 
Author: Stephen Sherman


The Southern Trends Report, SECF’s statistical dashboard on Southeast foundations, has recently been updated with new data reflecting giving through 2017. This marks the third annual update since SECF partnered with the Foundation Center (now Candid) to develop this interactive resource on philanthropy in the region.

While some grants data for 2017 is still being collected, here are some key figures on the state of the region:

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50th Annual Meeting Speaker Highlight: John Thornton

Author: Southeastern Council of Foundations


Local news outlets have seen precipitous declines in audience and circulation since the emergence of the Internet – a downward spiral that accelerated significantly following the economic crash that began in 2008.

Yet in 2009, with the country still mired in the worst downturn since the Great Depression, venture capitalist John Thornton decided to make a big investment in local news by raising funds – including $1 million of his own – to launch the Texas Tribune.

Did Thornton see a business opportunity where others didn’t? Did he believe there was still money to be made in local news?

Not exactly.

“I’m not saying there isn’t a for-profit model out there,” Thornton told The Austin Chronicle in 2009. “It’s just not a good business, and it never will be again.”

What it could be, however, is an incredible opportunity for philanthropic investment, especially for funders interested in promoting civic engagement and a strong civil society.

“I really did become passionate about this idea that an informed society, a functioning democracy, requires public service journalism,” 

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Southeastern Council of Foundations
100 Peachtree Street NW
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Visiting SECF: Parking, Directions & Nearby Hotels

Monday-Thursday from 9:00am–6:00pm (ET)
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Phone: (404) 524-0911
Fax: (404) 523-5116

Mission: The Southeastern Council of Foundations serves, connects, strengthens and champions philanthropy and philanthropic infrastructure in the South.