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


Public Policy Update - September 2021

Category: Public Policy, 
Author: Southeastern Council of Foundations

Sep15

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.

 

Work Continues on $3.5 Trillion “Social Infrastructure” Bill

The $3.5 trillion tax and spending package that forms the centerpiece of President Biden’s domestic agenda is now making its way through the legislative process in the House and Senate.

In the House, the Ways and Means Committee is crafting its part of the bill this week. Democrats suffered a setback today in the Energy and Commerce Committee, where three moderates in the party voted down a plan to allow the Department of Health and Human Services to negotiate lower drug prices for Medicare recipients.

That proposal – long a priority of Democratic leaders – provides a crucial part of the financing for the overall legislation. While it can be added back in, its defeat here reflects the unease some moderates in the party have with the legislation.

Senate Democrats are expected to release their own detailed version of the legislation this week. Over the weekend, moderate Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) indicated he remains opposed to the $3.5 trillion price tag that Biden and Democratic leaders in Congress have set for the bill.

The overall package still has to go through many steps and there are expected to be significant differences between the versions passed by the House and the Senate. We will continue monitoring the legislative package, which aims to address many areas of concern to grantmakers.

 

Hurricane Ida, Flooding Relief Likely to Be Part of Stopgap Spending Bill

The fiscal year ends on September 30 and with none of the regular spending bills passed into law, Congress will have to pass what’s known as a continuing resolution to prevent a government shutdown on October 1.

The resolution would keep the government running at existing funding levels. However, it will also likely include new spending to address immediate issues, including disaster relief for areas damaged by Hurricane Ida, flooding in central Tennessee and other natural disasters.

 

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Public Policy Update - July 2021

Category: Public Policy, 
Author: Southeastern Council of Foundations

Jul13

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.

 

Upcoming Member Webinar on the Accelerating Charitable Efforts (ACE) Act  

Register


Join us at 3:00pm ET on Tuesday, July 27, for a special public policy Member Webinar on the Accelerating Charitable Efforts (ACE) Act, legislation introduced last month that would make significant changes to laws governing the work of private foundations and donor-advised funds (DAFs).

Our webinar will review the major provisions of the legislation and what its provisions could mean for donor-advised funds and different types of foundations. We’ll also discuss the prospects for the legislation in Washington.

Joining us will be Sandra Swirski, Sara Barba and other members of the Philanthropy Team at Urban Swirski & Associates, a leading bipartisan Washington, D.C., advocacy firm. 

For more details on the ACE Act and its provisions, read the item below!

 

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Public Policy Update - June 2021

Category: Public Policy, 
Author: Southeastern Council of Foundations

Jun08

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.

 

Infrastructure Talks Continue, But Bipartisan Compromise Seems Unlikely

In previous Public Policy Updates, we detailed the provisions of President Biden’s American Jobs Plan and American Families Plan. Since then, both measures have been the subject of prolonged negotiations between the White House and Senate Republicans aimed at producing a bipartisan agreement.

While President Biden met today with Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), the Senate GOP’s lead negotiator on the package, an agreement still seems unlikely. Both sides have moved somewhat from their earliest positions, but they are still separated by more than a trillion dollars.

Pressure is growing from congressional Democrats to abandon hope for a bipartisan deal and forge ahead with a larger package more in tune with Biden’s original proposals. Passing such a bill would require the use of the fast-track reconciliation process employed for the COVID relief bill signed into law earlier this year.

While the American Jobs Plan is focused primarily on physical infrastructure and public works, the American Families Plan includes funding to boost many parts of the social safety net, including education, health care and childcare.

 

Prospects for Big Legislation Dim After Manchin Reiterates Filibuster Support

Since securing control of the Senate in January, Democrats had hoped to leverage their narrow majorities to pass significant legislation related to voting rights, climate change, health care and a host of other issues.

Advancing bills on any of these topics would have required weakening or eliminating the Senate filibuster, which effectively sets a 60-vote threshold for most legislation – the reconciliation process used for tax and spending legislation is a notable exception.

Any changes to the filibuster would require the support of all 50 Senate Democrats. Over the weekend, however, one of them signaled any change was off the table.

Writing in the Charleston Gazette-Mail, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) argued members of his party have demonized the filibuster, which he wrote can “make absolute power difficult while still delivering solutions to the issues facing our country.”

In expressing support for the filibuster, Manchin also indicated he would vote against a voting rights package due to its lack of Republican support. However, he still supports another bill, the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, that would restore some parts of the Voting Rights Act nullified by the Supreme Court in 2013’s Shelby County v. Holder decision.

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Public Policy Update - May 2021

Category: Public Policy, 
Author: Southeastern Council of Foundations

May11

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.

 

Second Part of Biden Infrastructure Plan Emphasizes Key Grantmaker Priorities

In our last Public Policy Update, we reviewed President Biden’s $2 billion infrastructure plan – while it did include funding for some items of concern to foundations, particularly broadband access, it was mostly geared toward a big investment in public works projects.

The second part of Biden’s plan, however, focuses on a different type of infrastructure – the social safety net. The $1.8 trillion proposal, known as the American Families Plan, would invest in areas familiar to philanthropy, including education, health care and childcare.

The plan would provide funding for two years of tuition-free community college, universal pre-K, paid family and medical leave and affordable childcare, among other programs. The proposal would be funded in part by $1.5 trillion in tax increases on individuals making more than $400,000.

Biden discussed both the earlier infrastructure plan and the American Families Plan during his address to a joint session of Congress earlier this month. 

In welcome news, the proposal does not include a 28 percent cap on itemized deductions, including the charitable deduction, that Biden floated during his campaign. In advance of the release of the American Families Plan, charitable organizations, including the Charitable Giving Coalition, sent letters to the administration requesting that the charitable deduction be excluded from any proposed caps on itemized deductions, the concern being that limiting the scope of the charitable deduction would significantly reduce charitable giving. 

Democrats in Congress are now beginning the work of moving Biden’s proposals through the legislative process – in the House, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has indicated she would like to pass a version of the plan by July 4. Biden and Democrats have made overtures to Republicans to craft a package with bipartisan support, but if that fails to produce an agreement, they still have the option of using the same budget reconciliation process employed for the COVID relief bill earlier this year. That tool, however, would require Biden to win the support of all 50 Democrats in the Senate, where they have the slimmest possible majority thanks to Vice President Kamala Harris’ tie-breaking vote.

 

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SECF Members on Embedding Racial Equity in Public Policy Work

Author: Southeastern Council of Foundations

Apr01

Last month, attendees at this year’s Foundations on the Hill had the opportunity to hear from three SECF leaders on how they can incorporate racial equity into their public policy work. Today, we’re excited to offer all our members the opportunity to view this informative and powerful session!

The session included insights from Darrin Goss, Sr., president and CEO of the Coastal Community Foundation of South Carolina, Chynna Phillips, research and policy director for the Sisters of Charity Foundation of South Carolina, and Kenita Williams, chief of staff and director of leadership development for the Southern Education Foundation.

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Public Policy Update - March 2021

Category: Public Policy, 
Author: Southeastern Council of Foundations

Mar09

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.

 

Join Us Next Week at Virtual Foundations on the Hill!

Foundations on the Hill (FOTH) is only one week away, but this year’s event is all-virtual – that means you still have time to sign up and connect with lawmakers in Washington!

FOTH 2021 will take place on six days spread over two weeks (March 16-18 and 23-25). Along with the opportunity to connect with policymakers, you’ll also be able to access a full agenda of sessions and speakers, including a closing keynote from PolicyLink’s Michael McAfee!

If you’ve never attended FOTH before, this is definitely the year to take the plunge. You’ll be able to fully participate from your home or office while enjoying the full support of veteran state captains and the SECF staff! FOTH is also a tremendous value – you can sign up now for only $99

You can learn more about this year’s Foundations on the Hill by viewing our webinars from February 17 and March 2. If you’re ready to sign up, registration is open now at SECF.org!

 

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Member Highlight: Chynna Phillips

Author: Southeastern Council of Foundations

Mar04

Foundations on the Hill is a can’t-miss event for Chynna Phillips, research and policy director of the Sisters of Charity Foundation of South Carolina and a self-described policy nerd.

Like other veterans of Foundations on the Hill (FOTH), Chynna is disappointed she won’t be able to travel to Washington, D.C., for this year’s event, which kicks off March 16. But she sees some advantages to virtual advocacy.

“We have the opportunity to show our commitment,” she said during February’s Public Policy 101 webinar. “We’re not saying, ‘OK, because of COVID we’ll just see you next year.’”

Instead, Chynna and the rest of the South Carolina will be connecting with lawmakers and key staff members, letting them know about the vital work of philanthropy in the Palmetto State over the past year, reminding them of the sector’s priorities and building relationships that can pay dividends in the years ahead.

During the February webinar, Chynna noted that a meeting with Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-SC), a member of the Democratic House leadership, convened by the foundation, the SC Grantmakers Network and Together SC, helped ensure the charitable sector was on the minds of lawmakers when shaping COVID relief legislation in the early days of the pandemic.

“We had 400 nonprofits on a call with congressman Clyburn and he was able to say, ‘I remember when you came up,’” Chynna recalled. “Later on, he was on the floor, and he talked about that meeting. If it wasn't for FOTH making us comfortable in those spaces, I'm not sure how that would have went.”

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Public Policy Update - February 2021

Category: Public Policy, 
Author: Southeastern Council of Foundations

Feb09

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.

 

Attending Foundations on the Hill Is Easier Than Ever – Here Are Five Reasons Why

Foundations on the Hill – SECF members’ best chance all year to connect with lawmakers in Washington – is going virtual this year. That means it’s never been easier to attend as part of the SECF delegation.

If you’ve never attended FOTH before, here are five reasons why you should make this the year you join us:

  1. Virtual FOTH is an incredible value. For just $99, you’ll be able to participate in multiple meetings with members of Congress and their staff. You will also be able to learn more about public policy by attending virtual sessions presented by our partners at the United Philanthropy Forum.
     
  2. FOTH works with your schedule. Meetings with members of Congress will take place throughout six days spread between two weeks – March 16-18 and 23-25. This flexible approach will make it easier to meet lawmakers without getting in the way of the rest of your work!
     
  3. You can attend without leaving your desk. Usually, attending Foundations on the Hill requires leaving town for a few days, flying to Washington and staying in a hotel. This year, all you need to do is join a videoconference from your home or office! 
     
  4. You’ll be supported every step of the way. Before, during and after your meetings with lawmakers, you’ll benefit from the support of the SECF staff as well as fellow members who have stepped up to serve as state captains. You’ll have everything you need to make your FOTH meetings a success!
     
  5. You’ll forge new and valuable relationships. Members of Congress not only write legislation that regulates our sector – they can also facilitate partnerships that help further your foundation’s mission. You’ll also get to connect with other SECF members, especially those in your own state!

You can sign up for FOTH now if you’re already convinced, but if you’d like to learn more, register now for our February 17 webinar, Public Policy 101: Why You Belong at Foundations on the Hill!

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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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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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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.