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 or at (404) 524-0911 to discuss your idea.

Hull Fellows Highlight: Kendra Jones

Author: Southeastern Council of Foundations


Over the past year, Richmond, Virginia, has been a hub of philanthropic activity and innovation thanks largely to the work and partnership of three SECF members: the Community Foundation for a greater Richmond, the Robins Foundation and the Richmond Memorial Health Foundation (RMHF).

In Richmond and elsewhere, the impact COVID-19 pandemic has not landed evenly. Communities of color have disproportionately paid the health and economic costs of the crisis – an issue of chief concern to Kendra Jones, RMHF’s director for health equity, arts and culture.

“We know that the people we serve have incredible power, lived experiences that we can learn from and they persevere despite the system that was created to oppress them,” Kendra said. “However, they need resources – and we share our resources with them by the means of financial, intellectual and social capital.”

As director of the foundation’s Health Equity and Arts (HEArts) program, Kendra has helped offer community members opportunities for creative expression that help people be heard, bridge divides and collaborate on solutions to inequity.

“Communities have been able to advocate for criminal justice reform, neighborhood and pedestrian safety, to destigmatize mental illness, and so many other issues that affect their ability to achieve health equity,” she said.

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Hull Fellows Highlight: Alice Hall

Author: Southeastern Council of Foundations


The Betty and Davis Fitzgerald Foundation, a family foundation based in Atlanta, focuses part of its giving on education – a subject quite familiar to Alice Hall, one of the foundation’s newest trustees and a learning specialist at Atlanta’s Pace Academy.

For Alice, however, experience as an educator wasn’t enough. She wanted to expand her knowledge of philanthropy itself. For that, she turned to SECF’s Hull Fellows program.

“This program almost feels like getting a personalized degree in philanthropy, which was exactly what I needed to be a productive, impactful part of the Fitzgerald Foundation,” Alice said. “As a foundation board member who does not work professionally in the world of philanthropy, I wanted to be a part of the Hull Fellows program so that I could gain a deeper understanding of how philanthropy works.”

Alice says she’s gained exactly during her year in the program, which culminated earlier this week when she and a group of her Hull classmates gave a Capstone presentation on Inspiring the Next Generation of Philanthropy.

“Through the Hull Fellows program, I expanded my knowledge of philanthropy from only being familiar with a small family foundation in Atlanta to understanding how a wide variety of organizations function throughout the entire Southeast,” she said. “I was privileged to hear from speakers who are experts in the field, as well as have personal conversations with my fellow classmates, who are respected professionals at their foundations.”

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Hull Fellows Highlight: Nicole Eovino Diebold

Author: Southeastern Council of Foundations


Earlier today, Nicole Eovino Diebold was slated to join her Hull Fellows classmates to present a Capstone Project on the next generation of philanthropy.

Nicole, however, wasn’t able to present live – but she was definitely focused on the next generation: A few days ago, she gave birth to a son. She didn’t let that small distraction get in the way of presenting, though: Thanks to the magic of pre-recorded video, Nicole was able to join the rest of her colleagues (so was her newborn, via a photo).

That dedication isn’t surprising – Nicole says the connections she’s made through the program are the type that will endure for years afterward.

“I have made valuable connections within this cohort of fellows with varied experiences across the Southeast, and I am confident that will continue to build into a network I will be able to call on for the entirety of my career in philanthropy,” she said. “It has also been interesting to learn about different perspectives and approaches to our work as a sector.”

For Nicole, this has been an eventful week coming toward the end of an eventful year. As a program associate at the C.E. & S. Foundation in Louisville, Kentucky, her work has been deeply affected by the news events that have reverberated throughout philanthropy in 2020.

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Hull Fellows Highlight: Anne Davis

Author: Southeastern Council of Foundations


Since coming to the Christy-Houston Foundation in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, Anne Davis has absorbed all she can about philanthropic leadership through a number of SECF programs, including Philanthropy Essentials, the Annual Meeting and the CEO Forum.

All of those programs led her to where she is today: the 2019-20 Class of Hull Fellows.

“From the moment that I was chosen for the position of President of The Christy-Houston Foundation, I began to seek out opportunities to understand grantmaking,” Anne said. “The motivation included my desire to build a new network of grantmaking professionals with whom to compare notes, collaborate and learn.”

She’s doing all of that now, even though the COVID-19 pandemic has forced Anne and her Hull classmates to meet exclusively online – meetings that include work toward a Capstone Project that will be presented later this year. In fact, Capstone presentations from a previous Hull class were a key reason Anne was interested in joining the program herself.

“Attending the Hull Fellows final presentation during the Annual Meeting in Louisville, I sensed a real interconnectedness in the room,” she said. “Hull Fellows Alumni attended the session in full support of current class members, as the Capstone Project groups made their way to the front of the room to share their findings on particular topics.”

As she and a group of her Hull classmates continue to meet, Anne has developed a sense of class pride that would be familiar to most Hull alumni.

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Hull Fellows Highlight: Susan Aspinwall

Author: Southeastern Council of Foundations


Susan Aspinwall’s email signature says she’s the executive director of The Sara Giles Moore Foundation – what it doesn’t mention is that she’s also a program officer, grants manager and office manager.

Like many family foundations in SECF, The Sara Giles Moore Foundation employs a staff of one. Susan, however, doesn’t feel alone in her work. Being a member of the 2019-20 Hull Fellows Class, she says, has opened her up to the broader world of philanthropy.

“It can be challenging to be the only staff person – it can feel like there is no one to bounce ideas off of and you miss having a trusted colleague to go to for advice,” she said. “Being a part of the Hull Fellows program allows me to, in a way, expand my ‘office’ to include a diverse group of professionals that are committed to supporting one another.”

The connections Susan has made are all the more helpful, since she was new to philanthropy when she applied to the Hull program last year.

“After many years working on the nonprofit side, I hoped the Hull Fellows program would support my success in this new role through learning opportunities as well as help me create a close network of colleagues that I could turn to for advice and guidance in the future,” she said. “Being a part of the Hull Fellows program helped me make connections that resulted in deep conversations and offered learning opportunities that connected me to experts in the field with different perspectives.”

Susan’s network includes her Hull Mentor, Pat Lummus of The Sartain Lanier Family Foundation – another Atlanta-based family foundation with only one person on staff.

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Hull Fellows Highlight: Meredith Sullivan Benton

Author: Southeastern Council of Foundations


Meredith Sullivan Benton has been everywhere, setting foot on all seven continents before she was 30. She’s worked for many well-known figures, including two governors, a U.S. senator and a former President of the United States.

Yet in order to take her career in philanthropy to the next level, she had to do one more thing: become an SECF Hull Fellow. Meredith, the vice president of programs and advocacy at The Healing Trust in Nashville, said she joined the leadership development program to further not only her work, but that of the foundation.

“My two co-workers at The Trust, CEO Kristen Keely-Dinger and Communications Director Jennifer Oldham, are both alumni. They encouraged me to apply to delve deeper into Southern philanthropy and build friendships in the sector,” Meredith said. “They both maintain the relationships they made almost a decade ago and I wanted to have a network to call on in building and advancing the work of The Trust.”

Moving her work forward has become even more important in 2020 – along with the pandemic and community calls for racial justice, Nashville has also had to rebuild and recover from devastating tornadoes that hit only days before COVID-19 forced much of the city to shut down.

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Hull Fellows Highlight: Cari Campbell

Author: Southeastern Council of Foundations


Throughout the 20-plus years of SECF’s Hull Fellows program, SunTrust’s Foundations & Endowments Specialty Practice, along with the SunTrust Foundation, have sent numerous staff into the leadership development program.

SunTrust is now Truist, but the name change hasn’t affected the strong relationship between the bank’s philanthropic support arm and the Hull Fellows – Cari Campbell, a first vice president at Truist’s Foundations & Endowments Specialty Practice, is keeping the tradition going strong.

“I had heard the Hull Fellows program was an outstanding leadership development program through several colleagues who had participated in the program,” Cari said. “I was encouraged to apply by my then-manager, [SunTrust Foundation President] Stan Little, who thought it would be an outstanding growth opportunity.”

Cari’s Hull experience has been a little different from those of her colleagues – the in-person retreat was delayed to next year due to the pandemic, for example – but she’s still gaining the insights and connections that have made the program a success for so long.

“We have heard from great philanthropic leaders via our monthly webinars which has provided me great additional knowledge and insight,” she said. “I’m so happy to make new friends in the Hull Fellows program and look forward to deepening these relationships at our newly added May 2021 retreat and throughout the coming years.”

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Hull Fellows Highlight: Allison Brody

Author: Southeastern Council of Foundations


Allison Brody’s experiences within SECF, including the work she’s doing today as a Hull Fellow, have helped her during a critical time for not only her professional development, but also the future of the Williamsburg Health Foundation.

“SECF has helped me find the language and the direction I needed to better do the work of equity,” said Allison, the foundation’s director of community engagement. “At an Annual Meeting a few years ago, I heard Michael McAfee from PolicyLink speak. His session helped me put pieces together.”

This year, Allison is putting those experiences to work as the Williamsburg Health Foundation moves through the strategic planning process – one that has been directly affected by both the COVID-19 pandemic and the murder of George Floyd.

“I think COVID-19 and the murder of George Floyd have made us all work deeper on racial justice and equity,” she said. “My foundation is going through strategic planning. Equity has a greater imperative in that plan, I think, than it might have otherwise. We’re doubling down on social determinants of health.”

Allison’s family history has had a strong impact on her perspective on racial equity. Her uncle, a white Jewish man from Long Island, participated in the 1963 March on Washington led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and served as a trustee for Alabama’s Tuskegee University, among the country’s most prominent historically black colleges and universities. Years later, her son, a Jewish student leader at the University of Virginia, would lead a candlelight march through campus in response to the white supremacist “Unite the Right” event.

“Working – and I mean that in the most active sense of the verb – toward a more equitable future is part of my cultural and personal inheritance, not to mention my job,” Allison said. “Seeking justice is not only part of both who I am as an individual and as a professional but also part of my Jewish cultural and familial inheritance.”

Allison, noting that she is married to a white police officer, said she still believes that overcoming division to combat racism is still possible, even in a polarized country.

“Some of my close friends and family believe being anti-police is equivalent to being anti-racist.  I don’t and I can’t,” she said. “I hope philanthropy can be the ‘passing gear’ to help heal the divides in our country, which feel overwhelming at times.”

Allison is now investing in her own future in philanthropy as a Hull Fellow. She says the experience has already allowed her to form deep connections, even if most of her interactions take place via videoconference.

“I’ve have met many determined and inspiring people,” she said. “I absolutely love my Hull Capstone group. We meet once a week, and our discussions are incredibly valuable to me personally and professionally.”

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Hull Fellows Highlight: Julianna Cagle

Author: Southeastern Council of Foundations


This year has provided an education for many in philanthropy – a reality that is doubly true for this year’s class of Hull Fellows.

Members of the 2019-20 Hull Class began their experience at last year’s Annual Meeting and has continued since then through monthly webinars. While those have continued, the Hull Spring Retreat, normally an in-person experience, became a virtual one. Coffees with Hull Mentors have become Zoom calls. Capstone projects are being planned via Skype.

The pandemic hasn’t taken away from the overall value of the Hull experience, however. Julianna Cagle, vice president of programs at The Goizueta Foundation in Atlanta, says the program has helped her better understand the value of philanthropy.

“I have learned that this work truly matters,” she says. “We have had incredible speakers come and share with us how we, as philanthropists, can actively be impacting outcomes related to COVID-19 and racial equity. Though the program has primarily been virtual at this point, we have been able to form connections and bonds within this group that go beyond just ‘networking’ and have become more intentional and strategic thought-partnerships.”

Julianna says she was attracted to the program to help her gain grounding in a field she joined just over a year ago. She also had plenty of encouragement along the way.

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