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.

SECF's Next Chapter: A Commitment to Courageous Leadership

Author: Janine Lee


This week, we proudly announced our Courageous Leadership Strategy, a new strategic direction that will guide SECF’s work through 2025. We are incredibly excited to begin this new chapter of SECF’s history – one we believe will be transformative for not just our organization, but also all of Southern philanthropy and the communities in our region.

While this strategic direction will be used to establish concrete goals for our staff and Board – you can view our specific goals here – we sought to develop a plan for 2021-25 that would go beyond a list of items. We wanted to define a new approach for SECF that reflects all we have done in recent years as well as the challenges and opportunities of today. 

Thanks to the hard work of our Strategic Planning Task Force, our staff and our Board, I am confident we have succeeded in putting SECF on a bold path defined by a commitment to courage.

Our overriding goal for this new chapter is to not only demonstrate courageous leadership, but also call our members to it. We believe answering the call to courageous leadership will be essential to meet the opportunities and challenges facing both philanthropy in the South and communities in the South during the next five years. 

We plan to exercise courageous leadership by pursuing 10 priorities, both internal and external, plus a vital cross-cutting priority: ongoing integration of our Equity Framework, first introduced in 2019.

By committing ourselves to courageous leadership, SECF is also committing itself to mobilize people and resources, in our organization and our network, in service to a new mission: We will strengthen Southern philanthropy, welcoming our members to listen, learn and collaborate on ideas and actions to help build an equitable, prosperous South.

This work, we hope, will bring into reality a new vision: a courageous community of philanthropists, leading work that results in an equitable South defined by justice, hope and opportunity for all.

Fulfilling commitments to our new mission and vision, as well as the values and guiding principles we adopted last year, will require hard work. We must address critical issues facing philanthropy in the South and its communities. We must take risks and make bold leaps.

By adopting this new direction, we pledge to do all of these things – and will call our members to do the same. I am confident that many of you will answer this call. We look forward to sharing this journey with you!

Janine Lee is president and CEO of the Southeastern Council of Foundations.

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Data Shows the South’s Communities Face More Risk From COVID-19 Pandemic

Author: Stephen Sherman


A new tool assessing the impact of COVID-19 shows that the South has a greater proportion of at-risk communities than any other region of the country.

The Surgo Foundation’s COVID-19 Community Vulnerability Index (CCVI) provides a clear warning for policymakers and philanthropy in the Southeast. The CCVI measures how vulnerable different communities are in their ability to mitigate and respond to the pandemic.

The Surgo Foundation, a nonprofit headquartered in Washington, D.C., works to integrate behavioral science and artificial intelligence to create precise solutions to social and health problems. The organization has recently devoted all its efforts toward the COVID-19 pandemic and is working to help policymakers understand who is most vulnerable, where the disease is spreading fastest, and the ways in which people are complying with and interpreting social distancing.

The CCVI is based on a composite of both indicators specific to COVID-19 and the CDC’s social vulnerability index (SVI), which measures the expected negative impact of disasters. These indicators are grouped into six themes: socioeconomic status, household composition, minority status, housing and transportation, epidemiological factors, and access to health care. 

As the county-level map of the CCVI shows below, the South has a greater proportion of at-risk communities than any other region. In fact, 71 percent of all high and very high vulnerability communities are concentrated in the South. Not only are eight of the top 10 vulnerable counties situated in the Southeast, but seven of those are located in one state: Mississippi. This analysis echoes similar alarms about the vulnerability of the South that have been raised in recent articles in The Atlantic and in The Guardian newspaper in the United Kingdom. While much of the nation’s attention has been focused on New York and other hot spots, the Southeast region as a whole remains at high risk from the pandemic.

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Southeastern Council of Foundations
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Phone: (404) 524-0911
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Mission: SECF strengthens Southern philanthropy, welcoming our members to listen, learn and collaborate on ideas and actions to help build an equitable, prosperous South.