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.

Fall 2020 Research Update: Highlights from Recent Reports from the Field

Category: Research & Data, 
Author: Stephen Sherman


SECF’s online Research Library is regularly updated with the latest reports relevant to Southern philanthropy. SECF members can browse over 300 research reports, websites, case studies, and other resources that we’ve cultivated to help funders stay abreast of trends in the field and learn about emerging best practices in philanthropy. 

Below are some of the key findings and highlights of the newest additions to the Research Library. If you would like to suggest a resource or have other feedback, contact Stephen Sherman, SECF’s Director of Research and Data, at or (404) 524-0911.


Healing Work: An Action Guide to Equitable Grantmaking Supporting Youth of Color
Forward Promise (2020)

Research shows that young people of color exposed to discrimination have poorer sleep habits, higher levels of stress hormones, and higher levels of obesity. The effects of racism follow them throughout their lives and may lead to chronic illnesses such as heart disease and hypertension in adulthood. Despite this evident need, there exists a significant disparity in the proportion of funding awarded to organizations led by and serving people of color. To rectify systemic inequities and disparities in funding, philanthropy must be intentional about implementing an effective set of equitable practices which allows them to hold space for, learn from, and better support the communities they wish to serve. 

This report from Forward Promise identifies opportunities for more equitable practice in six stages of the grantmaking process: the call for proposals, communicating funding opportunities, the reviewer pool, review process, data analysis, and site visits. The report includes worksheets to help funders assess and redesign their own grantmaking procedures.


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SECF’s Southern Trends Report Now Includes Five Years of Data on Philanthropy in the Southeast

Category: Research & Data, 
Author: Stephen Sherman


The Southern Trends Report, SECF’s statistical dashboard on Southeast foundations, has recently been updated with 2018 data on foundations and grantmaking, providing a five-year snapshot of trends in the field. Data will continue to be added for 2018, but the latest figures show a number of key findings. 

  • Assets of Southeastern foundations contracted slightly to $108 billion: In 2017, assets totaled $118 billion for all foundations. With financial data for some foundations still forthcoming, assets of Southeastern foundations were about $10 billion less in 2018.
  • Giving by Southeast foundations stayed steady at over $8 billion: Total giving by the region’s foundations, with some grants data still to be counted, was more than $8.2 billion.
  • Children and education remain the leading focus areas of foundation grants in the Southeast: Over $2.4 billion in grants were awarded to education-related purposes in 2018, more than twice as much as the next leading category - health. Nearly $1.5 billion was awarded to programs or organizations serving children and youth, making that population group the top recipient of foundation funding. 
  • Program development and general support were the top types of support provided: Close to a third of grant dollars awarded by Southeast foundations were designated for program development and a just under a quarter were allocated for general operating support. 
  • Two-thirds of giving by Southeast foundations stayed within the region: The share of in-region giving by Southeast foundations rose slightly to 66 percent.

The Southern Trends Report is developed in partnership with Candid. The dashboard provides an at-a-glance overview of institutional philanthropy in the Southeast region and is updated annually incorporating data from foundations that participate in Candid’s eReporting program and with data from IRS filings. For historical data and analysis of longer-term trends, see the Key Findings section of the site. 

Stephen Sherman is SECF's director of research and data.

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Research Update: Highlights from Recent Reports in the Field

Tags: SECF Staff 
Category: Research & Data, 
Author: Stephen Sherman


SECF’s online Research Library is regularly updated with the latest reports relevant to Southern philanthropy. SECF members can browse over 300 research reports, websites, case studies, and other resources that we’ve cultivated to help funders stay abreast of trends in the field and learn about emerging best practices in philanthropy. 

Below are some of the key findings and highlights of the newest additions to the Research Library. If you would like to suggest a resource or have other feedback, contact Stephen Sherman, SECF’s Director of Research and Data, at or (404) 524-0911.

Funder Support During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Center for Effective Philanthropy (2020)

CEP conducted a survey of nonprofit leaders in May 2020 to understand how nonprofits and the communities they serve have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, how funders have responded to the crisis, and what nonprofits will need most from funders going forward. Responses to the survey show that while the pandemic has had a devastating impact on the sector as a whole, the negative effects have been especially severe for nonprofits that provide direct services and for those that serve historically disadvantaged communities. In terms of financial impact, nonprofits that rely on foundation funding have experienced more stable funding than those that rely more on earned revenue or gifts from individual donors. Nonprofit respondents said that funders can be most helpful in the future by providing greater support, specifically unrestricted funds, and by being transparent about how the pandemic may impact future support. 

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Taking an Objective Look at Homelessness in Florida

Category: Research & Data, 
Author: Katie Ensign and Kathleen Shaw


The issues surrounding homelessness, and what we as funders need to consider, were brought into sharp relief this week with the release of Snapshot: A High-Level Review of the Regional Approach to Homelessness in Jacksonville, FL

This report, commissioned by a collaboration of funders including the Jessie Ball duPont Fund, The Community Foundation for Northeast Florida, the United Way of Northeast Florida, and the Henri Landwirth Family Advised Fund, outlined the progress made and the opportunities ahead for supporting Jacksonville’s homeless population. 

We learned that while Jacksonville has experienced a 32 percent decrease in the overall homeless population (compared to the national reduction average of 10 percent during the same period), there are notable areas for improvement, including a troubling 20 percent increase in unsheltered, single adults in Jacksonville.

Jacksonville is a very collaborative community and, as funders, we have a strong history of working together to address community issues. We were each supporting homelessness with our own grantmaking, and even serving on some of the same community committees – and we have seen some progress in our community with specific populations such as veterans and homeless families. But, as we thought collectively with one another and the providers in our community about the best approach to deepening our commitment to support this area, we weren’t convinced we had the right information to make the best decisions regarding a more comprehensive plan to move forward. 

There were conflicting opinions regarding a best practice approach, and we wanted to understand more about positive outcomes in other communities. So, we decided to engage an outside, objective expert to help us review our work and provide advice on the best approach moving forward. 

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Get on the Map: Help Us Share the Story of Philanthropy's Role in COVID-19 Response and Recovery

Author: Southeastern Council of Foundations


As part of the Get on the Map campaign, SECF is partnering with Candid to help track philanthropy’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. Candid has created a pop-up page,, which is updated daily with the latest information on philanthropic efforts to aid global response and recovery. The page includes the latest figures on foundation grantmaking to address the pandemic, a listing of funding opportunities, and news items on philanthropy’s efforts. 

Candid has also created a custom map that allows users to explore COVID-19-related funding at the state, county and local levels. You can see which foundations are giving in the Southeast region, where grantmaking is concentrated most, and what gaps might still exist in funding.  


If your foundation is funding organizations or initiatives as part of the response to the current crisis, please share information on this grantmaking with Candid. You can follow the instructions on this page, or simply email your grants data to For those who have never shared grants data before, Candid recommends using the “Simplified Template” available 

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Southeast Responses Needed for 2020 Grantmaker Salary and Benefits Survey

Author: Southeastern Council of Foundations


SECF is pleased to partner with the Council on Foundations (COF) and the United Philanthropy Forum to encourage participation in the 2020 Grantmaker Salary and Benefits Survey.

The annual Grantmaker Salary and Benefits (GSB) Survey provides grantmakers with the most comprehensive data on foundation staff and board compensation. Through this partnership, SECF is able to provide custom salary tables for Southeast grantmakers each fall. 

Your participation in the GSB survey is needed – the greater the participation, the greater the insights for the sector and for your fellow SECF members. 

What’s the benefit for participating organizations?

All survey participants (both COF members and non-members) will receive a copy of the full GSB report, the board compensation report, and access to COF’s benchmarking platform to create custom salary reports. The full report otherwise sells for $438 but is offered free to participating organizations. Reports and data will be released in October 2020.

How to Participate:

If you participated in the 2019 survey, go to Benchmark Central ( and log in using your credentials to start the survey. Need help with your login? Email

If you did not participate in the 2019 survey, email with the first and last name, title, and email for each individual needing access.

Note that multiple individuals from your organization can work on your submission simultaneously, but each team member will need their own login and it is recommended that you appoint one person to coordinate your submission. 

See this page for answers to frequently asked questions as well as a list of documents you’ll need to complete the survey.

Thank you in advance for completing the GSB survey! Please submit your responses by Sunday, May 31. For more information, visit or email

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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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Research Library Updates for 1st Quarter of 2020

Tags: SECF Staff 
Author: Stephen Sherman


In order to provide our members with the latest data and analysis on philanthropy and the issues it seeks to address, we continually make updates to the Research Library, available exclusively to members (login required). Members can browse hundreds of research reports, websites, case studies, and other resources that we’ve cultivated to help Southern funders stay abreast of trends in the field and learn about emerging best practices in philanthropy. 

This post captures some of the most recent additions to the Research Library. If you would like to suggest a resource or have other feedback, contact Stephen Sherman, SECF’s Research and Data Manager, at or (404) 524-0911.

COVID-19 Pandemic

Funding for coronavirus (COVID-19)

Candid (2020)

Candid has set up a pop-up resource page to provide the latest information on the philanthropic response to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The page includes sections listing funding opportunities, national and local response funds, related news items, and blog posts addressing philanthropy's response to the crisis.

Leadership in Difficult Times: Guidance for Donors and Giving Families: Responding to the Emerging COVID-19 and Economic Crises

National Center for Family Philanthropy (2020)

In response to inquiries from member families and funders, NCFP has developed this guide as an initial compilation of lessons and inspirations to help funders and families respond to the COVID-19 pandemic in the near-term. The guide offers ideas and resources from philanthropic families, family foundations, philanthropic support organizations, philanthropic advisors, and NCFP’s team, many drawn from responses to previous crises.

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COVID-19 Coronavirus: What Foundations Need to Know

Author: Southeastern Council of Foundations


UPDATE (March 16, 2020): New guidance from the CDC released March 15 recommends postponing all gatherings of 50 people or more for at least two months.

The SECF staff is working remotely but remains available to support our members. You can reach our team via e-mail or by calling (404) 524-0911. Read more about our response here.

UPDATE (March 12, 2020): We have added new information from the CDC on steps foundations can take to slow the spread of the virus. See the links below in the How Foundations Can Prepare section.

UPDATE (March 8, 2020): New guidance from the CDC recommends that anyone in a higher-risk group for becoming very sick due to COVID-19 should "stay home as much as possible." Those at higher risk include "older adults and people who have severe, chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease."

More than 1,000 cases of COVID-19 coronavirus have been reported in the United States since January 21 – this includes cases reported in 10 of 11 states in the SECF footprint.

The spread of the virus has sparked discussion of not only how philanthropy can best respond, but also of how foundations can best operate in an environment where fears of the disease are running high and where separating fact from rumor and misinformation can be difficult.

SECF has put together a collection of resources to help members deal with the impact of this growing pandemic. In addition, our staff is available to provide further assistance if needed – please contact us at (404) 524-0911 if you need our support.

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New Resources from SECF and Candid Examine Southern Philanthropy's Past, Present and Future

Category: Research & Data, 
Author: Stephen Sherman


Two new resources, released at SECF's 50th Annual Meeting, highlight the evolution of Southern philanthropy from its origins to today. 

The first, Southern Trends: 50 Years of Philanthropy in the Southeast Region, is a fact sheet published by SECF and Candid that looks at the growth of Southeast foundations from 1969-2019. At the time of SECF's founding in 1969, the Southeast was home to 532 foundations with $1.6 billion in assets and $61 million in giving. Fifty years later, the number of foundations has ballooned to more than 18,426 with $122 billion in assets and $8 billion in giving. Adjusted for inflation, this represents a tenfold increase in total assets since 1969.

The fact sheet also explores more recent trends in foundation growth over the past 15-20 years. While family foundations continue to make up the largest share of foundation giving, community foundations have experienced the largest growth in the share of grant dollars awarded. The distribution of foundation giving by subject has remained largely unchanged since 2003, with slight increases in giving to the arts and for environmental causes. The full fact sheet is available to view or download under the Key Findings section of the Southern Trends Report. 

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