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Submit Topics for the 52nd Annual Meeting -- Now Through February 15!

Author: Southeastern Council of Foundations


After last year’s Annual Meeting, we opened the Call for Topics for the 52nd Annual Meeting, slated to come to Asheville, North Carolina, this November – thank you to everyone who has already submitted their ideas!

Today, we are reopening the Call for Topics for a few weeks, through February 15. Last year was difficult for everyone, but a new year provides a chance for inspiration and ideas – and we want to make sure these are reflected on the Annual Meeting agenda. 

We also cannot ignore the events of the past week and the implications for our democracy. We know many of our members are thinking about these issues, too, and want to make sure they’re discussed in Asheville.

Visit our Call for Topics now to make your submissions, as well as suggestions for keynote and plenary speakers. Our 2021 Session Design Committee, comprised of a diverse and representative group of SECF members, will use your input to design sessions, recruit speakers, and organize the 2021 Annual Meeting program. We may not be able to incorporate every suggestion, but you can be sure we’ll take all of your ideas seriously. 

Also keep in mind that once a topic is selected, the Session Design Team will lead the work of developing it into a session and may take your idea in a surprising direction!

If you have questions about the Call for Topics, or want to help plan the 2021 Annual Meeting, contact Quincy Kelly, SECF’s production consultant, at qkelly@secf.org

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Register today for SECF's 52nd Annual Meeting!

Author: Southeastern Council of Foundations


November 10-12, 2021 | Asheville, North Carolina + Virtual
Two Ways to Attend!
Join Us in Asheville
Join Us Online
Registration for the 2021 Annual Meeting is now open
Note: In-person registration is limited this year - keep reading to learn how we are ensuring a safe and healthy Annual Meeting open to as many of our members as possible!


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Annual Meeting Speaker Highlight: Wes Moore

Author: Southeastern Council of Foundations


Not many people are invited to speak at three SECF Annual Meetings in less than a decade, but not many people have a story like Wes Moore.

In 2014, Moore riveted the 45th Annual Meeting audience in New Orleans as he shared not only his own life story, but that of “the other Wes Moore” – a man with the same name, and only a few years older. As boys, both grew up in Baltimore, lost their fathers early, and had some run-ins with the law. But while one Wes Moore went on to be a Rhodes Scholar and U.S. Army veteran, the other was drawn into a life of crime and is now in prison following a murder conviction.

Moore attributed his success in life largely to the strong network of support that surrounded him, one his counterpart lacked. 

“Starting with my mom and my grandparents would lead me to this amazing stream of role models and mentors and supporters and philanthropists and deans and people who were able to help me understand that the world was much bigger than what was just directly in front of me,” he said in 2014 during his Closing Keynote. “In essence, what they did was they taught me what it meant to be free.”

He also said people are products of their own expectations – but that society, including philanthropy, has a role to play in elevating those expectations.

“Expectations aren’t born from nowhere. The expectations that people have of themselves come from the expectations that other people have of them, and they just simply internalize them and make them their own,” he said. “We are a nation of self-fulfilling prophecies.”

In 2017, at the 48th Annual Meeting in Orlando, Moore once again spoke – this time he was joined by his mother, Joy Thomas Moore, at a session for Hull Fellows alumni. The mother and son duo provided insights on their relationship and the importance of strong families and communities while also discussing Moore’s second book, The Work, which focuses on finding meaning in one’s professional life.

Moore hasn’t slowed down since his last Annual Meeting appearance. He recently stepped down as CEO of Robin Hood Foundation after four years leading the organization’s work to target poverty in New York City. In June, he announced his candidacy for Maryland governor.

At this year’s Annual Meeting, Moore won’t be discussing politics. He will, however, be sure to provide a dose of inspiration as SECF continues its work to promote courageous leadership in philanthropy and build an equitable South.

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Annual Meeting Speaker Highlight: Heather McGhee

Author: Southeastern Council of Foundations


Heather McGhee will be a familiar face to many when she takes the stage to close SECF’s 52nd Annual Meeting – and not only because she’s been a frequent presence on news programs as one of the country’s leading voices on racial and economic inequality.

Last October, hundreds of SECF members attended a virtual town hall that featured McGhee, who offered a preview of what she learned in the course of writing her bestselling book, The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together.

While the effects of racism are usually discussed in terms of education, housing, health care and other bedrock issues, McGhee brings people into her argument with something a bit easier to grasp: public swimming pools.

McGhee opened her SECF town hall appearance by noting that when local communities across the country were ordered to desegregate their public swimming pools, officials decided they’d rather not have a pool at all than allow Black and white children to swim together.

“This fight to just have this core piece of infrastructure together, to just play together, ended up revealing that many of the massive public investments that helped shape American prosperity in the 20th century… were furnished at the first instance on a whites-only basis,” McGhee said in October. “So the question that we have right now is are we still in the bottom of a drained pool?”


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Annual Meeting Speaker Highlight: Raj Chetty

Author: Southeastern Council of Foundations


For the past five years, any list of suggested Annual Meeting speakers has seen Raj Chetty’s name toward the very top.

It’s not hard to understand why – Chetty’s groundbreaking research has leveraged the combination of computational power and massive data sets to reveal striking truths about social mobility and inequality in America. For grantmakers seeking to make the biggest impact with their investments, Chetty’s findings are indispensable.

Since 2018, Chetty has led the work of Opportunity Insights, a research and policy institute housed at Harvard University. Soon after it was established, Opportunity Insights released The Opportunity Atlas, which allows visitors to examine, down to the Census tract level, the impact race, gender and parental income have on the next generation.

The story told by this data is not encouraging. In short, where someone was born plays an outsized impact on their ability to climb the socioeconomic ladder. The impact of racism is impossible to ignore – for Black children, escaping generational poverty is far more difficult than for white children, even when other variables remain the same.

Chetty’s work, however, does not end once the data is published. “The big-picture goal,” Chetty told The Atlantic in 2019, “is to revive the American dream.”

To achieve that incredible goal, Chetty and Opportunity Insights have forged partnerships with cities across the country, including Charlotte, where its partners include the Foundation for the Carolinas and the Gambrell Foundation. Last year, Opportunity Insights released its first report on the Charlotte Opportunity Initiative.

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Annual Meeting Speaker Highlight: Paul Shoemaker

Author: Southeastern Council of Foundations


Before the Annual Meeting revs up for attendees online and in Asheville, foundation CEOs will have the chance to connect with one another through the CEO Forum preconference on Wednesday morning.

The CEO Forum – both the Annual Meeting offering and the annual spring event – has long focused on big topics facing philanthropic executives: strategy, leadership, vision and change. Each of these are important to this year’s CEO Forum facilitator, Paul Shoemaker.

“My job is to be a messenger and to help people understand that they can utilize their tools and talents to be the most impactful advocate they can be for the cause they care most about,” Shoemaker said in an interview promoting one of his books, Can’t Not Do. “I want to help people to recognize their power to create social good.”

Shoemaker is notable for having a particular interest in the work of philanthropy, a subject he’s written about in publications like Stanford Social Innovation Review. He has called on the sector to fundamentally change its underlying practices in order to achieve the most good.

“We have good materials (committed people, financial capital, promising solutions) but are sometimes using outdated practices that are often more grounded in an inside-out, funder-centric point of view than the external realities of the grantees, programs, and systems we seek to change,” he wrote. “We need to become far more outside in, driven by external realities and signals.”

One change that’s needed, Shoemaker writes, is greater funding for general operating support – an idea that many have advocated, but still faces resistance. He goes further, however, describing funding restricted to specific programs as “quite damaging.”

“We are using a practice that weakens the entire structure of grantees we hope to build,” Shoemaker wrote. “If we want to make sure that funds go toward an intended social outcome, we must make an agreement on the mutual outcome and let grantees decide how to best spend the funds (the means) to achieve that goal (the end).”

While Shoemaker has called on the sector to change the way it supports nonprofits financially, he also believes that other forms of philanthropic capital are just as important – if not more.

“There are so many resources that we have beyond finances, and in order to make money effective, we have to use them,” he writes. “Money absolutely matters, but anyone who says that money alone will solve the world’s problems is wrong – every aspect of change has a human face.”

Shoemaker is the founding president of Social Venture Partners International, a global network of thousands of social innovators, entrepreneurs, philanthropists, and business leaders supporting social change agents in over 40 cities and eight countries.

Along with Can’t Not Do, he is also the author of Taking Charge of Change, which shares stories of “Rebuilders” who are tackling big problems in their work.

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Annual Meeting Speaker Highlight: Lexi Paza

Author: Southeastern Council of Foundations


Nonprofits need a lot of things to run effectively, some of which are easy to take for granted – like space.

Even during a time when working from home has become far more common, nonprofits that are active in their communities still need a way to bring people – staff, board members, partners, the people they serve, and more – into a shared space.

Often, however, that can be in short supply. Small towns don’t have enough, and in big cities, it’s too expensive to rent or own. That’s where nonprofit centers come into play.

These spaces provide a place multiple nonprofits in a community can use when needed. Several already exist throughout the Southeast – examples include The Spartanburg County Foundation’s Robert Hett Chapman III Center for Philanthropy and the PATH Foundation’s Resource Center.

Foundations, however, aren’t usually in the real estate business. Thankfully, The Nonprofit Centers Network, based in Denver, has established itself as a thought leader in what it calls “social purpose real estate.”

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Update on Annual Meeting COVID Protocols

Author: Southeastern Council of Foundations


This information was updated on August 26, 2021. Further updates will be posted here as needed.

Throughout our planning for SECF's 52nd Annual Meeting, we have been keeping a close eye on the state of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Delta variant has driven a significant spike in cases, hospitalizations and deaths, particularly in the South.

We are still planning to host our in-person meeting in Asheville but are making some changes to our meeting policies to protect the health and safety of our attendees and reflect the current state of the pandemic and the latest public health guidance.

First, we are changing our cancellation policy to allow attendees to cancel and receive a full refund, minus a $50 administrative fee, by October 1 -- a month later than normal. The state of the pandemic is changing constantly and rapidly. Pushing back our cancelation deadline gives attendees the ability to make an informed decision with a better idea of what the state of the pandemic will be in November.

Second, we will now require all Annual Meeting registrants to present either proof of full vaccination or a negative COVID test from the past 48 hours before attending any Annual Meeting functions. Speakers and staff will also be subject to this requirement. We are currently exploring several options for verifying this information on-site. Anyone who cannot present this information will be directed to testing options.

We want to encourage you to receive a COVID vaccination if you have not already. Vaccines are proven to be safe and incredibly effective at preventing severe cases. They remain the best tool we have for bringing this pandemic to an end.

We are continuing to assess all aspects of the Annual Meeting to ensure it is as safe as possible while providing an enjoyable, informative and inspiring experience. We will continue to provide updates as the meeting draws closer. In the meantime, we appreciate your continued support, understanding and flexibility.

The SECF staff is also available to help answer any questions you may have. You can call us at (404) 524-0911 or email Dena Chadwick, SECF's chief operating officer, at dena@secf.org.

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Annual Meeting Speaker Highlight: Chandra Taylor

Author: Southeastern Council of Foundations


The intersection between racial equity and climate change has become increasingly clear as marginalized populations, particularly people of color, disproportionately suffer the effects of extreme weather – these groups are also underrepresented among leading environmental groups, depriving them of a seat at the table and input on possible solutions.

There are leaders within the region seeking to change this dynamic, however. One of them is Chandra Taylor, senior attorney and leader of the Southern Environmental Law Center’s Environmental Justice Initiative. She will be one of several speakers at “Invisible Fences: Racial Equity and the Environment,” a breakout session taking place at this year’s Annual Meeting.

Taylor’s leadership was recently recognized by the North Carolina Wildlife Federation, which named her its Water Conservationist of the Year.

“Working at the intersection of civil rights and environmental protection, Taylor forced cleanups at contaminated industrial sites at Yadkin River and Badin Lake, stopped water pollution threatening North Carolina communities, and helped shape transit and landfill policies,” the federation said in announcing the award.

Taylor, who grew up in Kinston, North Carolina – one of many in the region devastated by the decline of the textile industry – says her personal experience has had a direct impact on her professional life.

“I was very specific about wanting to do work representing communities of color and low-wealth communities and I’m going to do it in the State of North Carolina because this is the place that I love,” she says. “Social justice is important to me because I saw people who worked really hard but still did not always make ends meet.”

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Submit Your Nominee for the 2021 Truist Promise Award

Author: Southeastern Council of Foundations


This year’s Annual Meeting will include the second presentation of the Truist Promise Award recognizing innovative philanthropy in the Southeast! Last year, this prestigious honor honored work done by two SECF members: the Charlottesville Area Community Foundation and the Coastal Community Foundation of South Carolina.

Nominations for this year’s Truist Promise Award are now open. The award recognizes a particular initiative and/or innovative grantmaking strategy or approach, done by an individual organization or through a collective partnership – as such, it may be presented to more than one foundation if the initiative is a product of partnership and collaboration.

The Truist Promise Award recognizes work that focuses on significant and systemic issues facing the region and the country today. In addition, nominees must meet the following criteria:

  • Work focused on issues of racial equity, racial justice or anti-racism.
  • The innovative use of multiple forms of philanthropic capital, particularly beyond financial capital.
  • Use of data and research in determining strategies and tactics.
  • Cooperation with community partners, particularly in other sectors, or direct engagement with community members.
  • Impact/outcomes that are evidence-based.

You may nominate any SECF member organization, including your own, for the Promise Award. The recipient will be selected by a group of SECF staff and Board members and recognized at the 2021 Annual Meeting.

Nominations are due Friday, October 15. Click here to submit your nominee!

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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.

Monday-Thursday from 9:00am–6:00pm (ET)
Friday from 9:00am–12:00pm (ET)

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

Mission: SECF strengthens Southern philanthropy, welcoming our members to listen, learn and collaborate on ideas and actions to help build an equitable, prosperous South.