Member Highlight: Darrin Goss, Sr.


Over the next few weeks, we’ll be profiling the new members of SECF’s Board of Trustees announced at the 51st Annual Meeting following a vote by SECF members.

In less than five years under the leadership of Darrin Goss, Sr., the Coastal Community Foundation in Charleston, South Carolina, has emerged as one of Southern philanthropy’s leading advocates for advancing racial equity and for the adoption of Passing Gear principles focused on deploying multiple forms of capital to address the root causes of issues in the community.

The foundation’s work has earned national attention and praise – just this week, the foundation received a $1 million grant from Facebook to support Black communities and black-led organizations. At the 51stAnnual Meeting, the foundation’s Passing Gear work was recognized with the Truist Foundation Promise Award.

The SECF network stands to benefit even more from Goss’ leadership now that he has joined the Board of Trustees. But despite an impressive track record, Goss is beginning his new role ready to learn and listen.

“I want to learn as much as I can on how I can be effective in supporting the goals of SECF as an organization and how that can potentially shape the future of the Southeast,” he said. “I am relatively new to foundation philanthropy and so I have a lot to learn.”

Goss brings plenty to the table as well – not just his leadership experience at the foundation and in the nonprofit world, but also his personal experiences as a Black man in the South. Goss wrote poignantly on the subject of racism in June, after the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery focused national attention on racial injustice.

“Racism in America was not created and carried out by black people, and thus, is not a black problem,” Goss wrote. “Racism is a consequence and by-product of white supremacy and privilege, and thus is a uniquely white American problem, which only white America can fix.”

Goss wrote that it is incumbent upon white Americans to acknowledge the nation’s long, painful history of systemic racism against blacks – and also admit that, as difficult as their own lives may be, such practices have not been broadly applied against them.

“White people have inherent advantages, but surely white people still must work hard in their lives for wealth, to earn their education, and so forth. It doesn’t come on a silver platter for anyone,” Goss wrote. “But white people do not have the systemic barriers constantly working against them, as is the case for black people. As we build a more just world, white people must start by appreciating the hard work and resilience of black people, and at every opportunity, afford them the opportunity to pursue success unencumbered.”

Yet even in a year defined by crisis, Goss says he has more faith than ever in philanthropy’s power.

“2020 has strengthened my resolve in the belief that philanthropy is and should be a key driver in addressing the deep structural changes that need to take place along a number of social, economic, and political systems,” he said. “In ways that the private and public sector can’t, philanthropy has a freedom of movement and power that is, in most cases, under-utilized.”

SECF’s own work to advance equity was a key reason he enthusiastically agreed to join the Board – along with the leadership of Janine Lee.

“She is one of the most strategic thought leaders in our space, and her vision for what SECF can be, and more importantly what philanthropy in the South should be, inspires me,” Goss said. “The SECF membership was another key factor. We have some of the most impressive professionals leading foundations in the world – our colleagues could thrive in any sector and we are fortunate to have them in philanthropy.” 

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