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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New Resources from SECF and Candid Examine Southern Philanthropy's Past, Present and Future

Category: Research & Data, 
Author: Stephen Sherman


Two new resources, released at SECF's 50th Annual Meeting, highlight the evolution of Southern philanthropy from its origins to today. 

The first, Southern Trends: 50 Years of Philanthropy in the Southeast Region, is a fact sheet published by SECF and Candid that looks at the growth of Southeast foundations from 1969-2019. At the time of SECF's founding in 1969, the Southeast was home to 532 foundations with $1.6 billion in assets and $61 million in giving. Fifty years later, the number of foundations has ballooned to more than 18,426 with $122 billion in assets and $8 billion in giving. Adjusted for inflation, this represents a tenfold increase in total assets since 1969.

The fact sheet also explores more recent trends in foundation growth over the past 15-20 years. While family foundations continue to make up the largest share of foundation giving, community foundations have experienced the largest growth in the share of grant dollars awarded. The distribution of foundation giving by subject has remained largely unchanged since 2003, with slight increases in giving to the arts and for environmental causes. The full fact sheet is available to view or download under the Key Findings section of the Southern Trends Report. 

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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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January 2020 Public Policy Update

Category: Public Policy, 
Author: Southeastern Council of Foundations


Each month, SECF provides 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 Jaci Bertrand, SECF's vice president of member engagement, at jaci@secf.org.

SECF Public Policy Committee Welcomes New Leadership, Prepares for a Busy Year Ahead

SECF's work on public policy is heading into 2020 with plenty of momentum following crucial victories in Washington to cap off 2019, including the simplification of the private foundation excise tax and the repeal of harmful changes to the unrelated business income tax (UBIT).

The year ahead promises to be busy and unpredictable, particularly with elections on the horizon. In a few weeks, SECF's Public Policy Committee will meet to discuss our strategy for the year and the priorities we will present to lawmakers at Foundations on the Hill and beyond.

Leading the committee in 2020 will be two co-chairs: Jane Alexander, president and CEO of the Community Foundation for Mississippi, and Susan DeVenny, president and CEO of the J. Marion Sims Foundation.

Jane provides a vital perspective on the many policy issues that affect not just philanthropy, but community foundations in particular. She has served as the president and CEO of the Community Foundation for Mississippi, based in Jackson, since 2012. During that time, the foundation's assets have grown to $60 million, with more than 250 funds. Jane has led the foundation in working on a number of public-private partnerships, including an initiative between the Mississippi Governor's Office, the Mayor of the City of Jackson and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to study and identify challenges facing the Jackson Public School system, and suggest community-based solutions to address those challenges. 

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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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Two SECF Staff Members Promoted Heading Into 2020

Tags: SECF Staff 
Category: Announcements, 
Author: Janine Lee


SECF enjoyed incredible success during its 50th Anniversary year -- in more ways than one, we exceeded the high expectations we placed on ourselves for 2019, a year capped off by our largest Annual Meeting ever!

This success could not have happened without the hard work, leadership and dedication of the SECF staff. Heading into 2020, two staff members have earned promotions that reflect not only the work they have done previously, but also the added leadership responsibilities they will take on going forward.

First, Dena Chadwick has been promoted to Chief Operating Officer (COO). Dena has been with SECF for more than a decade. In that time, she has brought a level of discipline, rigor and sophistication to SECF's operations that is unmatched within the field. Dena has provided unparalleled staff leadership in multiple areas, especially finance and auditing, Board relations, governance and human resources. For many years, she led the planning for one of SECF's signature events, the CEO Forum, and was the staff lead on the development of our Equity Framework.

Meanwhile, she has run a tight ship while also ensuring that SECF provides the best support possible to our high-performing staff. In the year ahead, Dena will also serve as the staff lead as SECF works toward the development of our next strategic plan.

Second, Stephen Sherman has been promoted to Director of Research and Data. Since joining the staff in 2017, Stephen has proven himself essential to making SECF a go-to source of research and data on Southern philanthropic trends and history -- the first stated goal of our current strategic plan. After joining our team, Stephen immediately dedicated himself to working with our partners at MDC on the release of Philanthropy as the South's Passing Gear: Fulfilling the Promise and, in the years following, a series of successful Passing Gear events held around the region.

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Public Policy Update: Philanthropy Scores Victories on Private Foundation Excise Tax, UBIT

Category: Public Policy, 
Author: Southeastern Council of Foundations


The end of the year will see the philanthropic sector achieve two major policy victories in Washington: a repeal of a burdensome tax on nonprofit organizations and the long-sought simplification of the private foundation excise tax.

On Tuesday, the House of Representatives passed a tax and spending package that addresses two issues SECF and other philanthropy-supporting organizations have worked on for years.

The bill, expected to pass the Senate later this week and be signed by the president, would repeal changes to the unrelated business income tax (UBIT) that were a consequence of the 2017 tax bill. The changes to UBIT required the taxation of transportation benefits, such as parking and transit, provided by nonprofit organizations to their employees.  

A study commissioned by our allies at Independent Sector and conducted by the Urban Institute and George Washington University had concluded that, on average, the tax diverted $12,000 a year away from each nonprofit's community work. 

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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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December 2019 Public Policy Update

Category: Public Policy, 
Author: Matthew L. Evans


Each month, SECF provides 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 Jaci Bertrand, SECF's vice president of member engagement, at jaci@secf.org.

Revamped Public Policy Section of SECF.org Provides More Resources, Tools 

Public policy and advocacy are an important priority for SECF and many of our members. To support our members already working in this area and to encourage those interested in getting started on advocacy efforts, SECF has added several new, user-friendly features to the public policy section of SECF.org. 

Members can now use SECF.org to look up their elected officials, share personal advocacy related stories, participate in advocacy campaigns, view the progress of legislation being tracked by staff and more!

Whether you're on your phone, desktop, or tablet, these public policy resources are now just a click away. You can start exploring these new features now! If you would like a guided tour of the new public policy section and its new features, you can view a recent webinar conducted by SECF staff that provides an in-depth overview. 

In addition to these new online tools, SECF now has access to FiscalNote, a leading legislative tracking service used by thousands of organizations. SECF will use FiscalNote to discover and monitor state legislative and regulatory developments while also offering members the opportunity to obtain state legislative tracking reports. 

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