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: 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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Tapping Into the Communities We Serve



Note: This post is an excerpt from an article posted last month at North Carolina State University's Philanthropy Journal and is published here with permission.

When I joined the Robins Foundation in 2014 – which aims to advance the greater Richmond community through strategic partnerships, collaborations and education – the role of director of inclusion and community impact didn’t exist. As the foundation became proactive in the region, our role evolved in responding to our partners’ needs.

In 2017, my position was created to address fairness and equitable access to quality resources. We have a strong interest in investing in programs that enrich whole families and whole neighborhoods, with a particular interest in children and their academic opportunities and success. We have three main principals – partnership, innovation and fairness. It became clear that to achieve this, we needed to take a more intentional approach toward equity and inclusion. One of the ways we do this is by embracing the idea that communities know what they need.

Here’s an example of how this has worked within our foundation. Each year, we hold a $500,000 Community Innovation Grant (CIG) competition. Organizations from all over the Richmond region apply for the grant and propose actionable solutions that have a meaningful and measurable impact. The proposals address complex issues that our region has been wrestling with for generations, including trauma-informed care, the school-to-prison pipeline, housing instability, education, workforce development and health.

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Philanthropy Responds to Hurricane Dorian

Category: Grantmaking, 
Author: Southeastern Council of Foundations


After battering the Bahamas earlier this week, Hurricane Dorian is now bearing down on the Southeastern coast, bringing dangerous rain, wind and storm surge flooding to the Carolinas. 

Current projections show the storm’s effects will be felt most strongly in South Carolina through Thursday night before moving up the coast to North Carolina and Virginia.

Already, several SECF members and partners have activated relief funds that will support recovery once Dorian passes. These include:

The Center for Disaster Philanthropy has already announced a webinar for funders interested in supporting recovery efforts in The Bahamas. We will notify SECF members of other programs as they are announced.

SECF is also ready to provide support to any members directly affected by the storm – please contact our offices at (404) 524-0911 to reach our staff.

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50th Annual Meeting Speaker Highlight: Daranee Petsod

Author: Southeastern Council of Foundations


Just as the treatment of immigrants, asylum-seekers and other refugees has emerged as a regular topic in the news, in the halls of Congress and in the race for president, it has also risen as an area of concern for philanthropy in the Southeast and beyond.

Fortunately, foundations seeking to support these populations, or deepen their existing work, have a go-to resource available to them: Grantmakers Concerned with Immigrants and Refugees, led by Daranee Petsod, the organization’s president. 

At this year’s Annual Meeting, attendees will be able to hear from Petsod in person. “How Did We Get Here on Immigration?”, a session set for the meeting’s first day, will help participants understand the history of immigration in the United States and how it shapes and informs current-day practices.

In a recent letter addressing several recent news stories focused on immigrants – ICE raids in Mississippi, the ongoing detention crisis at the Southern border, and mass shootings in Gilroy, Calif., and El Paso, Texas, that targeted Latinx people – Petsod urged foundations to make support for immigrant families an ongoing part of their regular grantmaking.

“Add funding for rapid response to your overall annual grantmaking budget,” she wrote. “Having readily available funds for this purpose will allow you to make grants quickly when these events occur, particularly outside of your geographic area, issue focus, or grantee pool.”

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

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


Note: This post is the eighth 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: North Carolina.

North Carolina Philanthropy Snapshot

First SECF Members: Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation, Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation, Foundation for the Carolinas (Founding Members – joined 1969-70)
Newest SECF Member: Herschel and Cornelia Everett Foundation (joined May 2018)
Number of SECF Members: 35

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

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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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