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When Data Inspires a Movement: How Arkansans Are Working Together to Boost Student Reading Scores

Author: Heather Larkin

Jun11

Only 37 percent of Arkansas third graders read on grade level. Thirty-seven percent. That’s according to student scores on the 2016 ACT Aspire Assessment, the state’s standardized achievement test.

Almost two-thirds of Arkansas children lack the critical early literacy skills they need to be successful throughout the rest of their educational careers and beyond. For those of us who aren’t teachers, principals or school administrators, we might wonder “What can I do about it?” A growing coalition of Arkansans are answering that question with a resounding “Take action!”

When Arkansas Community Foundation produced the first edition of our Aspire Arkansas report, we wanted to provide community leaders with better access to information that would spark conversations about community-minded solutions. Access to key facts and data about our communities can serve as a roadmap, giving us a sense of where we are now and where we can go. We’ve been working to answer the question, “What can everyday Arkansans do to move the numbers in the right direction, and what can Arkansas Community Foundation do to help?”

When we learned about the critical need to improve our kids’ reading scores, we knew we had an opportunity to find out what it could look like to join partners across Arkansas using data to spark positive change.

Here’s what we’re learning:

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Five Reasons My Foundation Will Be On the Hill

Author: Russell Carey

Feb12

It was a moment from an Aaron Sorkin script. “Walk with me,” Rep. French Hill said as we entered the Members Only elevator. Hill, a Republican who represents central Arkansas, including Little Rock, had been buzzed for a floor vote but wanted to learn more about Expect More, our foundation’s new economic equity initiative. As we speedwalked the halls of Congress, I talked about our vision for Arkansas. Through echoing tunnels we discussed how it connected with his workforce agenda. As we arrived at security, I offered some ways we could be a resource in the future. Cue the music.

Moments like this are more common than not at Foundations on the Hill (FOTH). FOTH is a two-day event that brings foundation leaders to Washington, D.C., for meetings with Congress about key issues for foundations and philanthropy. The time my organization, the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation, spends at FOTH each year is intense, exciting, and incredibly valuable. There’s a multitude of reasons you should be there. I’ve tried to narrow it down to my top five:

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

Author: Southeastern Council of Foundations

Feb27


Note: This post is the second of 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: Arkansas.


Arkansas Philanthropy Snapshot

First SECF Member: The Ross Foundation (joined 1977)
Newest SECF Member: Walton Family Foundation (joined 2017)
Number of SECF Members: 6



Learn more about Arkansas foundations from SECF's Southern Trends Report!

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October 2019 Public Policy Update

Author: Matthew L. Evans

Oct01

Beginning this month, SECF will provide 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 Matthew L. Evans, SECF's director of public policy and special projects, at matthew@secf.org.


From Recess to Recess

After a few weeks in Washington following the end of the August recess, members of Congress are once again in their districts for a two-week recess covering the Jewish high holidays as well as Columbus Day. The House and Senate will return to work October 15 with several items relating to philanthropy vying for space on the agenda. Here's a look at what SECF members may see during the remainder of the session.

Must-pass legislation

Congress averted a government shutdown last week when the Senate passed a temporary spending bill that was later signed by President Trump. However, that bill's funding expires November 21. This legislation will allow lawmakers more time to finish the annual appropriations process. If regular appropriations legislation is not passed by then, lawmakers may pass a short-term continuing resolution, or CR, to keep the government operating at current funding levels.

Beyond these spending bills, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) must be passed by January 1, 2020. This legislation has successfully made it through Congress for 60 years. The House and Senate have passed separate versions of the legislation, but significant policy differences have not yet been resolved. 

Congress will be busy working on several other must-pass items, as well. Those include reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank, the National Flood Insurance Program, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, and the extension of some health policy provisions set to expire this year.

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Episode 2 of The Bridge Now Available for Listening!

Author:

Jun25



Episode 2 of The Bridge, SECF's podcast, is now available on all major podcast platforms!

This marks the first episode of The Bridge since both the COVID-19 pandemic and nationwide calls for racial equity and justice in the wake of the murder of George Floyd. SECF President & CEO Janine Lee leads a conversation addressing both these topics, talking with Cory Anderson, chief innovation officer at the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation in Little Rock, Arkansas, and Robert Dortch, vice president of program and community innovation at the Robins Foundation in Richmond, Virginia.

Each episode of The Bridge shares stories of the ways foundations are bringing together people in their communities to spark dialogue and lasting change. This new offering is one of the first initiatives to come as a result of our Equity Framework.

The Bridge can be streamed below and is also available on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts and other podcast providers! (Using another podcast app? Copy this link to add The Bridge to your subscriptions.) We expect to release at least one more episode of The Bridge this year – if you'd like to suggest a topic or person to interview, please contact David Miller, director of marketing and communications, at david@secf.org

We hope you enjoy listening!

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Supporting Communities Affected by Hurricane Laura

Author: Southeastern Council of Foundations

Aug28

At least six people are dead following the devastation of Hurricane Laura, which made landfall early Thursday near Lake Charles, Louisiana, as a powerful Category 4 storm.

Officials on the ground are just beginning to assess damage from the storm, which, while weakened, has also brought significant rainfall to the rest of Louisiana and Arkansas. According to the Center for Disaster Philanthropy, “areas hit by Laura include regions of the continental U.S. that have some of the counties/parishes with the lowest median income in the country. These areas are highly dependent on subsistence work, manufacturing, oil and gas, and other industries that can be deeply affected by hurricane-related disruptions. They also have some of the lowest road and public transportation densities in the U.S.”

Philanthropy has a critical role to play in natural disaster recovery, particularly once initial relief efforts by government and organizations like the Red Cross have run their course. Two community foundations in the area have set up funds that are taking donations – money raised for these funds will go toward long-term relief and recovery:

Other community foundations in areas affected by the storm include: 

Finally, the Center for Disaster Philanthropy has an Atlantic Hurricane Season Recovery Fund that has been created to help focus on the greatest areas of need for the recovery process.

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Hull Fellows Highlight: Sarah McBroom

Author: Southeastern Council of Foundations

Jan21

Sarah McBroom holds a title showing up with increasing frequency across Southern philanthropy: equity officer.

In that role, she provides leadership for the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation’s efforts to pursue economic, educational, social, ethnic, and racial equity for everyone in Arkansas. But to help others effectively, Sarah knew she needed to develop herself as well – thankfully, she knew exactly where to go: SECF’s Hull Fellows program.

“I was excited about the opportunity to connect with leaders across the southeastern states to build relationships in the hopes of building a better future,” she said. “I am passionate about building an inclusive, prosperous, and equitable American South. I believe philanthropy has a powerful role to play in that movement, but it will require us to learn, grow, and reimagine together as a sector.”

Sarah’s learning journey over the past year has been aided by her Hull mentor: Christine Reeves Strigaro, executive director of The Sapelo Foundation. Both have brought to their jobs a significant focus on equity, particularly in rural communities.

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Member Highlight: Rev. Shantell Hinton Hill

Author: Southeastern Council of Foundations

May06

The ongoing integration of SECF’s Equity Framework will depend in part on member leadership – in particular, the voices on the Equity Committee and its four subcommittees, including a group focused on Reimagining Equity-Focused Grantmaking.

One member of that subcommittee, the Rev. Shantell Hinton Hill, says she is excited to bring a variety of perspectives to the table as the group begins its work.

“It excites me to use my knowledge and embodied experiences to inform what innovative solutions could look like,” she says. “Equity-centric grantmaking is the only response in a world that teaches us scarcity above sustenance. Without this necessary reimagination of what philanthropy could be, funders will remain a part of the problem.”

Those embodied experiences go beyond her work as an equity officer at the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation in Little Rock, Arkansas. Shantell is also an ordained minister.

“Everything I know about meeting people where they are and building them up to become their highest selves, comes from my upbringing in the Black Church,” she says. “Just as the pandemic has caused everyone to shift their ‘normal’ ways of going, being, and doing in the world, I believe philanthropy is called to do the same.”

Shantell’s work with the Equity Committee is a natural extension of her day job, where she helps lead the foundation’s implementation of its AR Equity 2025 strategic direction. The foundation has placed a particular focus on a group of people described by the acronym A.L.I.C.E. – asset limited, income constrained, employed.

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Member Highlight: David Lewis

Author: Southeastern Council of Foundations

May27

Leadership development in Southern philanthropy has long been part of SECF’s mission and work, as seen in programs like the CEO Forum and the Hull Fellows program.

It made sense, then, to establish a special group dedicated to applying an equity lens to this type of work – that group, the Equity Committee’s Equity Leadership Opportunities Subcommittee, met for the first time in April.

One of the subcommittee’s members, David Lewis, is an equity officer at the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation in Little Rock, Arkansas. Leadership development, he says, is critical to promoting equity in Southern communities.

“Advancing any type of change requires a great deal of courage on the part of those organizing for change – as such, the movement for equity demands a courageous disposition,” David said. “Those who expect to lead the masses must be risk takers who are unafraid to support the unconventional and embrace the idea of reimagining how we show up in communities, how we support communities, and how we build agency within communities for sustainable change.”

The subcommittee is a natural fit for David in a number of ways – his portfolio at the foundation is specifically focused on leadership development and movement building. Plus, as a relative newcomer to philanthropy – he started at the foundation in October 2019 – he is on the same journey as many others who are new to the field.

“The Equity Leadership Opportunities Subcommittee is an excellent place for me to use my knowledge and skills in the areas of organizational and leadership development to advance SECF’s transformative equity framework throughout the region,” he said. “While there were many things that excited me about this opportunity, the most exciting has been the ability to bring a different perspective to the larger conversation as an emerging professional in philanthropy.”

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Southeastern Council of Foundations
100 Peachtree Street NW, Suite 2080
Atlanta, GA 30303

Visiting SECF:
All staff are working remotely at this time but can still be reached via email and by calling (404) 524-0911.

Hours:
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Friday from 9:00am–12:00pm (ET)


Phone: (404) 524-0911
Fax: (404) 523-5116

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