SECF Member Highlight: Deanna James


Every member of the SECF Board of Trustees brings a unique perspective to the table – as the saying goes, “if you’ve seen one foundation, you’ve seen one foundation.”

Still, it would be hard to argue that Deanna James brings a point of view all her own to the SECF Board, which she joined in December following approval by the SECF membership. After all, James leads a foundation that serves an island, St. Croix, that is part of the larger U.S. Virgin Islands territory.

“Territory” is how James politely describes the U.S. Virgin Islands. She prefers another word that better represents the amount of political power, or lack thereof, she and other St. Croix residents have.

“Hailing from a U.S. colony, my community's political status has relegated American citizens residing in the U.S. Virgin Islands to 'other' or 'less than', by law. I think that reality has uniquely heightened my awareness and sensibilities relative to systemic inequity everywhere,” she said. “I live inequity and exclusion.”

Of course, inequity and exclusion are conditions seen throughout the Southeastern region. That commonality is what drew James to SECF membership and, now, to agreeing to serve on the Board of Trustees.

“The opportunity to connect with and build capacity for philanthropic organizations serving underserved, under-resourced communities, particularly in the rural South, was irresistible,” she said.

Serving on the Board will allow James more opportunities than ever to connect with fellow SECF members, particularly fellow Trustees.

“My overarching goal is to learn from and to share with fellow directors and members,” she said. “I'm also intent on identifying and connecting with small place-based philanthropies that are possibly building innovative practice around how to do philanthropy differently – more intrinsically rooted in community.”

This year – not just the pandemic,  but also and extremely active Atlantic hurricane season – have emphasized for James the value of place-based philanthropy.

“Just as most rural communities have learned after every major natural disaster, the closer philanthropy is to the ground, the more effective and responsive it will be!” she said.

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