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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 david@secf.org or at (404) 524-0911 to discuss your idea.


Public Policy Update - January 2021

Author: Southeastern Council of Foundations

Jan19

Each month, SECF provides 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 Jaci Bertrand, SECF's vice president of member engagement, at jaci@secf.org.

 

SECF’s Response to the Attack on Democracy

Last week, SECF President & CEO Janine Lee, joined by Board Chair Regan Gruber Moffitt and Equity Chair Robert Dortch, issued a response to the January 6 attack on the Capitol and attempts to overturn the results of the presidential election. 

Describing this moment as another call to action for philanthropy, they call on SECF members to “recommit to the belief that a strong America is synonymous with a strong participatory democracy.” You can read the full response on our blog, Engage.

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What New Leadership in Washington Means for Philanthropy

Tomorrow will bring not only the inauguration of Joe Biden as president, but also a major power shift in the U.S. Senate, as Georgia’s new Democratic senators, Jon Ossoff and Rev. Raphael Warnock, will be sworn in following their victories in the January 5 runoff elections. 

With Kamala Harris becoming vice president – and her Senate seat being filled by an appointed Democrat – control of the Senate will officially shift to the Democrats by the slimmest possible margin. Each party will have 50 senators, with Harris serving as the tie-breaking vote.

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Public Policy Update - December 2020

Author: Southeastern Council of Foundations

Dec08

Each month, SECF provides 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 Jaci Bertrand, SECF's vice president of member engagement, at jaci@secf.org.

 

Expanded Charitable Deduction Could be Part of Year-End COVID Relief Bill

Renewed hopes for a COVID relief package in Congress have also improved the prospects of an expanded charitable deduction.

Prospects for legislation gained significant momentum last week after a bipartisan group of lawmakers revealed a $908 billion plan mostly comprised of extended unemployment benefits, aid for state and local governments and small business loans. The proposal quickly won support from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY).

The bill’s price tag places it between the $2.2 trillion package House Democrats passed earlier this year and a $500 billion package Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has called for in recent weeks. 

McConnell’s counterproposal, notably, would expand the temporary universal charitable deduction that was included in the CARES Act, which became law in the early weeks of the pandemic and established a $300 deduction for non-itemizers. That provision expires at the end of this year – McConnell’s latest proposal would establish a new universal charitable deduction of $600 for single filers and $1,200 for married couples filing jointly. 

Lawmakers are also staring down a December 11 deadline to prevent a government shutdown. Yesterday, McConnell said he expects to pass a one-week stopgap bill which would keep the government funded until December 18. That would give lawmakers negotiating a COVID relief bill an additional week to come to an agreement – the relief bill is widely expected to be attached to a year-end omnibus funding measure.

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Public Policy Update - October 2020

Category: Public Policy, 
Author: Southeastern Council of Foundations

Oct06

Each month, SECF provides 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 Jaci Bertrand, SECF's vice president of member engagement, at jaci@secf.org.

 

Post-Election Briefing for SECF Members on November 16

Mark your calendars: SECF will hold a special post-election member webinar on Monday, November 16, at 2:00pm Eastern! We will review the results of races for the White House and Congress and what they could mean for the charitable sector and its priorities in 2021.

Registration for this event will open soon – keep an eye on your email and SECF.org for details!

 

House Democrats Pass Scaled-Back HEROES Act, But Compromise Remains Elusive

Last week, House Democrats released a $2.2 trillion scaled-back relief package in a last-ditch effort to provide additional COVID relief before lawmakers leave town to campaign. Notably, the bill does not include an expansion of the universal charitable deduction but does include a few provisions helpful to nonprofits. A summary released by the National Council of Nonprofits has more details. 

Even with the bill’s reduced price tag, half a trillion dollars still stands between Democrats and the White House. As of today, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin were negotiating with the hopes of reaching an agreement, but a compromise before the election appears unlikely. 

Looking ahead, the next opportunity for lawmakers to advance a COVID relief package is likely during the “lame duck” session – the time between the election and the end of the year. Current government spending levels expire on December 11, so that will present another opportunity to advance a relief measure that could include nonprofit policies like an expanded universal charitable deduction and additional PPP relief. 

 

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Public Policy Update - September 2020

Category: Public Policy, 
Author: Southeastern Council of Foundations

Sep01

Each month, SECF provides 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 Jaci Bertrand, SECF's vice president of member engagement, at jaci@secf.org.

 

This month’s policy update contains less news than normal – both chambers of Congress are in recess through Labor Day. Here’s a quick review of what will be awaiting lawmakers when they return to Washington in September.

 

COVID Relief Talks Remain Stalled as Shutdown Looms

As we reported in our August update, negotiations over the next round of COVID-19 relief legislation have stalled over several disagreements between House Democrats, Senate Republicans ­– who need Democratic votes to overcome a filibuster – and the White House. 

Both the House and Senate left town with many issues still unresolved. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi did bring the House back into session last month, but only to consider legislation that would provide funding for the Post Office amid rising concerns about its ability to handle a large number of mail-in ballots expected for this year’s election.

Adding to the pressure when lawmakers return will be the looming September 30 deadline for Congress to continue funding the government. If no spending legislation is passed, the government will shut down – something neither party, nor President Trump, wants to happen in an election year during a pandemic.

It remains unclear how the possible shutdown will affect COVID relief legislation, but the deadline introduces another factor that could shape negotiations.

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Public Policy Update - August 2020

Author: Southeastern Council of Foundations

Aug04

Each month, SECF provides 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 Jaci Bertrand, SECF's vice president of member engagement, at jaci@secf.org.


Fate of Next COVID Relief Package Unclear 

As of this afternoon, the state of the next COVID-19 relief bill, including provisions affecting philanthropy and nonprofits, remained fluid.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) released the $1 trillion HEALS Act last week. However, several Republican senators are opposed to key provisions of the bill. That, combined with the need to achieve 60 votes to overcome a filibuster, means McConnell has to negotiate not only with his own party, but also with Democrats, whose votes will be essential to passing any legislation. 

Pressure has been added by rising jobless claims and the expiration of both a federal eviction moratorium and enhanced unemployment assistance (UI), which was providing an extra $600 per week to those unemployed due to the pandemic. 

More PPP Loans Possible: As of today, the HEALS Act includes another round of funding for the Paycheck Protection Program, which offers forgivable loans to small businesses and nonprofits. However, only organizations with fewer than 300 employees that can also show a 50 percent decline in revenue will be eligible for the next round. The proposal also includes liability protections for businesses, schools and nonprofits that reopen, a top priority for Republicans.

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Public Policy Update - July 2020

Category: Public Policy, 
Author: Southeastern Council of Foundations

Jul07

Each month, SECF provides 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 Jaci Bertrand, SECF's vice president of member engagement, at jaci@secf.org.


Bills to Expand Charitable Giving Introduced in House and Senate

Two Southeastern lawmakers are among the lead sponsors of bipartisan, bicameral proposals to expand the temporary universal charitable deduction put into law earlier this year.

In the Senate, Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) is a lead sponsor of the Universal Giving Pandemic Response Act (S. 4032), which would expand the temporary $300 universal charitable deduction included in the CARES Act to one-third of the standard deduction, or roughly $4,000 for individuals and $8,000 for joint filers. The increased deduction would be available for tax years 2019 and 2020. Rep. Mark Walker (R-NC) has partnered with Rep. Chris Pappas (D-NH) to introduce an identical version of this legislation in the House.

The lead sponsors on the bill have indicated they are trying to get the expansion included in the next COVID relief package, which is expected in late July. The Senate Finance Committee is also considering expanding the universal charitable deduction in the next package, but committee members are also interested in adding compliance provisions to reduce the cost to the federal government and avoid fraud.

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Public Policy Update - June 2020

Author: Southeastern Council of Foundations

Jun02

Each month, SECF provides 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 Jaci Bertrand, SECF's vice president of member engagement, at jaci@secf.org.

 

Pandemic Response Legislation

Congress Weighing Changes to Paycheck Protection Program: In the wake of the House nearly unanimously passing a bill that would provide more flexibility for businesses and nonprofit organizations taking Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans, Senate Republicans have voiced concerns. However, there is still a strong possibility of changes ultimately becoming law.

On May 28, the House, by a 417-1 vote, passed the Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act. The bill would extend the loan forgiveness window to 24 weeks, up from 8 weeks. The measure would also give recipients more flexibility in how they can use the loans by changing the so-called 75/25 rule. The new rule would require only 60 percent of the loan to go toward payroll to still qualify for forgiveness, down from the current 75 percent threshold. This legislation would also allow loan recipients to defer payroll taxes for a longer period of time.

Senate Small Business Committee Chairman Marco Rubio (R-FL) says there are technical errors in the House bill that could make it more difficult for recipients to get their loans forgiven, making it unlikely the Senate passes the House bill unchanged. The Senate is expected to move forward with its own set of changes to PPP, possibly extending the forgiveness window to 16 weeks.

Changes to PPP may also be folded into the so-called RESTART Act, which has been proposed by Sens. Todd Young (R-IN) and Michael Bennet (D-CO). This measure would extend the PPP loan forgiveness window to 16 weeks for businesses that have seen their revenues decline at least 25 percent during the original 8-week window. 

The bill would also create a new loan program to serve businesses and nonprofits with fewer than 5,000 employees. These loans – capped at $10 million – would be available to 501(c)(3) organizations and several other types of tax-exempt organizations. The loans would cover payroll, benefits and fixed operating expenses for recipients that have experienced significant revenue losses during the pandemic. Loan recipients with fewer than 500 employees would have an opportunity to have their loans forgiven, while nonprofit employers with more than 500 employees would receive more favorable loan terms without forgiveness.

A detailed summary of the RESTART Act with loan and repayment examples can be found here.

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May 2020 Public Policy Update

Author: Southeastern Council of Foundations

May05

Each month, SECF provides 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 Jaci Bertrand, SECF's vice president of member engagement, at jaci@secf.org.


Impact of Unemployment Insurance Provisions on Nonprofits

You may have seen commentary online concerned about the impact of regulations related to unemployment insurance on nonprofits. However, a close reading of these rules indicates the impact only applies to certain grantee organizations.

Labor Department guidance issued on April 27 instructs states to bill certain tax-exempt employers immediately for 100 percent of the costs of unemployment benefits paid to employees laid off as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, this provision applies only to a small group of tax-exempt organizations known as “reimbursing employers.” It appears only some of the nation’s largest charitable organizations will fall into this group, but the complete impact is unknown. Most either pay unemployment taxes directly into their state’s trust funds or are so small that they pay nothing.

We are continuing to track the impact of these regulations – if you are hearing concern from your grantees about any possible impact, please let us know!

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April 2020 Public Policy Update

Author: Southeastern Council of Foundations

Apr07

Each month, SECF provides 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 Jaci Bertrand, SECF's vice president of member engagement, at jaci@secf.org.


Recent COVID-19 Relief Bill Includes Significant Support for Nonprofits, Philanthropy

Almost as soon as Foundations on the Hill had wrapped up this year, activity in Congress became focused almost exclusively on addressing the COVID-19 pandemic. While the first two bills addressing the effects of the outbreak were largely focused on halting the spread of the disease and expanding family leave protections, the third bill, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, represented the single largest piece of relief legislation ever passed by Congress.

The bill, a $2 trillion package focused on the catastrophic economic effects of the outbreak, includes several provisions aimed at boosting charitable giving and supporting the nonprofit organizations during a time of unprecedented crisis.

The legislation, signed into law on March 27, includes the following provisions:

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January 2020 Public Policy Update

Category: Public Policy, 
Author: Southeastern Council of Foundations

Jan07

Each month, SECF provides 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 Jaci Bertrand, SECF's vice president of member engagement, at jaci@secf.org.


SECF Public Policy Committee Welcomes New Leadership, Prepares for a Busy Year Ahead

SECF's work on public policy is heading into 2020 with plenty of momentum following crucial victories in Washington to cap off 2019, including the simplification of the private foundation excise tax and the repeal of harmful changes to the unrelated business income tax (UBIT).

The year ahead promises to be busy and unpredictable, particularly with elections on the horizon. In a few weeks, SECF's Public Policy Committee will meet to discuss our strategy for the year and the priorities we will present to lawmakers at Foundations on the Hill and beyond.

Leading the committee in 2020 will be two co-chairs: Jane Alexander, president and CEO of the Community Foundation for Mississippi, and Susan DeVenny, president and CEO of the J. Marion Sims Foundation.

Jane provides a vital perspective on the many policy issues that affect not just philanthropy, but community foundations in particular. She has served as the president and CEO of the Community Foundation for Mississippi, based in Jackson, since 2012. During that time, the foundation's assets have grown to $60 million, with more than 250 funds. Jane has led the foundation in working on a number of public-private partnerships, including an initiative between the Mississippi Governor's Office, the Mayor of the City of Jackson and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to study and identify challenges facing the Jackson Public School system, and suggest community-based solutions to address those challenges. 

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