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: Rhonda Broussard

Author: Southeastern Council of Foundations


While many foundations these days have made equity a greater priority, not all of them are starting from the same place. Some are still in a learning phase, others are ready to act, and others have already done equity-based work, but are looking to expand further.

At this year’s Annual Meeting, attendees will have the opportunity to hear about the equity journeys of their peers and, no matter where their organization is starting from, explore how to increase its “equity footprint.”

Helping lead this conversation will be Rhonda Broussard, the founder and CEO of Beloved Community in New Orleans. The organization, which focuses on policy advocacy and capacity-building, states plainly in its motto that “equity is our only hope.” Broussard leads the organization in its work to promote equity in schools, in workplaces and in the home.

“What will it take to make appreciable, sustainable change on the equity front? Beloved Community was born out of that question and the recognition that education alone can’t solve for society’s inequities,” Broussard said in a recent interview with LaPiana Consulting. “I believe that we can build our communities differently than we have been -- encompassing social justice, business/nonprofit, and government perspectives. These groups may have different reasons for being on the train, but if we design right we can get going in the same direction.”

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Immigration Enforcement Must Put Families First

Author: Janine Lee and Sammy Moon



Earlier this week, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) carried out a series of raids at facilities throughout Mississippi that resulted in nearly 700 men and women being apprehended and accused of being in the country illegally. 

It quickly became clear that these actions did not take into account the impact on the families of those taken into custody. The raids came on the first day of school – many children emerged from what should be a day of promise and possibility to find no one to pick them up, with no information on what happened to their mother or father. In some cases, children lost both parents to these raids. 

We have since seen images of children crying in the street, confused and afraid. Many children were left with, literally, nowhere to go. The local residents and businesses that volunteered to house these children until they could be connected with loved ones deserve our highest praise. While many of those initially taken into custody have since been released, hundreds more are still in detention. 

Sadly, these actions are all too reminiscent of the family separations that took place at the Southern border last year. Back then, SECF leadership wrote that “the treatment of children and families is not a political issue – it is a humanitarian one.” This remains the truth today.

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50th Annual Meeting Speaker Highlight: Dr. Geoffrey Nagle

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


Conventional wisdom is often unkind to the education system in the United States – it holds that schools aren’t doing a good job in general, or that a quality K-12 education is harder to come by for students of color or those from low-income households. In total, it results in a system that leaves students unprepared for a competitive global economy.

Dr. Geoffrey Nagle, president and CEO of the Erikson Institute, agrees that more needs to be done to ensure students are prepared for college and beyond once they finish high school. But he doesn’t place the blame on K-12 education – he believes many students are at a disadvantage before they even set foot in kindergarten.

“The story we’ve heard about our schools may not be the real story,” he said in an interview with WBEZ radio in Chicago. “Schools are doing a lot better than we think they are doing, but they are struggling to overcome the deficits students have when coming into the schools. School failure isn’t really about the schools -- it’s about how we prepare students for school. And we also have to understand the adversity children face and how that impacts them.”

Nagle encourages parents, educators and government to place more focus on the 0-3 years of a child’s life – what he calls “the first 1,100 days.” During this time, many children receive no formal education at all, and often go all the way to age 5 without entering a classroom.

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50th Annual Meeting Speaker Highlight: Alberto Ibargüen

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


Earlier this week the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation announced a major investment in research that will help us better understand how technology is transforming American democracy and the way we receive and engage with information.

The $50 million initiative will support cross-disciplinary research at 11 universities and research institutions. This will include $5 million for the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Institute for Data, Democracy, and Politics to help the public, journalists, and policymakers understand digital media’s influence on national dialogue and opinion, and to develop sound solutions to disinformation. 

Spearheading this work is the Knight Foundation’s president, Alberto Ibargüen, who will also kick off a plenary discussion at the 50th Annual Meeting that asks a crucial question: Can Philanthropy Preserve the Pillars of Democracy?

For Ibargüen, the answer to that question is an emphatic “yes.”

“We’re living the most profound change in how we communicate with each other since Gutenberg invented the printing press,” Ibargüen said in announcing Knight’s latest initiative. “The internet has changed our lives and is changing our democracy. We have to take a step back and a step forward. To understand what is actually happening, we need independent research and insights based on data, not emotion and invective. To go forward, citizens must be engaged, and including university communities in the debate is a step in that direction.”

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11 States in 11 Months: Southern Philanthropy in... Mississippi

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


Note: This post is the seventh 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: Mississippi.

Mississippi Philanthropy Snapshot

First SECF Member: The Phil Hardin Foundation (joined 1973)
Newest SECF Member: Woodward Hines Education Foundation (joined 2017)
Number of SECF Members: 16

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

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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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July 2019 Research Update: Highlights from Recent Reports in the Field

Tags: SECF Staff 
Category: Research & Data, 
Author: Stephen Sherman


SECF’s Research Library, accessible only to members, is regularly updated with the latest reports, websites, case studies and other resources we’ve cultivated to help Southern funders stay abreast of trends in the field and learn about emerging best practices in philanthropy.

Periodically, SECF’s research and data manager, Stephen Sherman, looks at some of the latest additions to the Research Library. If you would like to suggest a resource or have other feedback, contact Stephen at stephen@secf.org or at (404) 524-0911.

The Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Toolkit for Consultants to Grantmakers
National Network of Consultants to Grantmakers

This toolkit, intended primarily for philanthropy consultants but also of use to grantmakers themselves, is designed to address the lack of concrete tools to facilitate institutional and community change. Divided into two parts, the first section offers a concise collection of resources on diversity, equity and inclusion. Resources are grouped into six categories: frameworks, grantmaking strategy, planning and evaluation, organizational culture and leadership, research, and engaging communities and partners. Each resource is accompanied by a brief description and link to the relevant website or report online.

The second part of the toolkit features perspectives from consultants in the field with their recommendations on best practices for working with foundations to address diversity, equity and inclusion.

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Summer 2019 Issue of Inspiration Now Available to SECF Members

Tags: Inspiration 
Category: Member Benefits, 
Author: Southeastern Council of Foundations


SECF members now have access to the latest issue of Inspiration, our quarterly magazine dedicated to sharing stories of philanthropy’s impact in communities across the South, as well as exploring emerging trends and best practices that are shaping the field today.

The summer 2019 issue of Inspiration includes:

  • A look at the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation’s efforts to promote climate justice and resiliency throughout the region – the foundation’s support at the community level has enabled organizations to reshape their own neighborhoods through green infrastructure, sustainable design and public education.
  • The latest installment of our Then, Now & What’s Next series marking SECF’s 50th Anniversary. In this article, we track how philanthropy in the region has evolved from direct charity to a diverse array of tools and strategies that address both immediate needs and systemic issues.
  • Coverage of the Couchman-Noble Foundation’s work to preserve affordable housing in suburban Atlanta – work being directly led by the foundation’s founders, David and Melanie Couchman.

The latest issue also includes our regular features on new members, the latest research in the field and new hires and promotions within the SECF family. We also profile 50th Annual Meeting speaker Jim Hasson, who has worked with SECF since its earliest days. Finally, President & CEO Janine Lee writes on how this year’s Annual Meeting lineup is the best we’ve ever offered!

A print copy of Inspiration is mailed to each member organization as well as individual Hull Fellows alumni. Members can also login to SECF.org to download a PDF version.

If you have a story idea for an upcoming issue of Inspiration, contact David Miller, director of marketing and communications, at david@secf.org!

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Giving USA Shows Mixed Findings for Charitable Giving in 2018

Category: Research & Data, 
Author: Stephen Sherman


The latest estimates on charitable giving from Giving USA show that individuals, foundations and corporations gave more than $427 billion to U.S. nonprofits in 2018. Giving by individuals accounted for 68 percent of the total ($292 billion), giving by foundations came in at 18 percent ($76 billion), corporations gave around 5 percent ($20 billion), and gifts by bequest made up about 9 percent ($40 billion). 

Depending on how overall giving is calculated, 2018 saw either a slight increase (0.7 percent) from the prior year when measured in current dollars or a small decline (-1.7 percent) if adjusted for inflation. This ambiguity reflects the complex factors affecting charitable giving last year, not the least of which were the tax changes taking effect as a result of the passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act in late 2017. 

Growth in total giving essentially remained flat as increases in giving by foundations and corporations made up for the decline in individual contributions. Giving by foundations was at an all-time high, totaling $75.9 billion and accounting for its largest share of overall giving to date. This was a 7.3 percent increase over foundation giving in 2017, or a 4.7 percent increase when adjusted for inflation. Giving by individuals, on the other hand, fell by 3.4 percent when adjusted for inflation. The share of overall giving from individuals fell to 68.3 percent, down from around 70 percent in 2017. 

This decline follows a longer-term trend in which the share of giving from individuals has fallen from around 83 percent in the late 1970s. The dip in individual giving could also be attributed to more recent developments, however. 

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