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: 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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Member Highlight: Maggie Afriyie (Program Associate, PATH Foundation)

Category: Member Highlight, 
Author: Southeastern Council of Foundations


Nearly every aspect of how foundations work and operate has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic – managing interns is no exception to this rule.

At the PATH Foundation in Warrenton, Virginia, the challenge was amplified even more: the foundation’s internship program brought in not one intern, or two, but 14. The task of overseeing such a large group fell to one of the foundation’s newest staff members, Program Associate Maggie Afriyie.

PATH Foundation’s internship program is made up of two components: weekly group work and leadership development activities at the Foundation, plus an outside placement with local government or nonprofit organization that serves the community. Intern placements are focused on the foundation’s four priority areas: mental health, access to health, childhood wellness, and senior services. 

Maggie said the process for taking the internship program online required plenty of coordination – with partner organizations, fellow staff members and, of course, the interns themselves.

“Initially, we reached out to our partners to ensure that they would still be able to host an intern in the new virtual format. Once we squared that away, we spoke with some of our staff on how we would educate the interns on PATH,” she said. “We were fortunate to have senior program officers at PATH that were able to present on our four focus areas to ensure proper education for the interns.”

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51st Annual Meeting Speaker Highlight: Susan Taylor Batten

Author: Southeastern Council of Foundations


Amid a pandemic disproportionately affecting Black people and communities and ongoing calls to combat anti-Black racism, ABFE and its president and CEO, Susan Taylor Batten, have been leading the way in calling on philanthropy to take action in support of racial justice.

Soon after George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police officers sparked protests around the globe, ABFE released a letter signed by Batten and more than 60 Black foundation CEOs that included 10 recommendations for philanthropy to follow in order to combat racism. 

“Our long-term goal is to free Black people from disparate treatment that result in the racial disparities we see in COVID-19, police brutality and on almost every indicator of well-being,” the letter stated. “We need deep, transformative institutional change in this country; foundations and donors that support Black communities, in addition to those from other sectors (government, business, etc.) must commit to and deploy an equity analysis to investments moving forward.”

Yet this letter is only the latest example of how, under Batten’s leadership, ABFE has been a prominent voice for change within the field. Even before Floyd’s death, Batten had directly tied the pandemic to America’s long, painful history of racism.

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Responding to COVID-19 in... Hilton Head, South Carolina

Author: David Miller


This post is the first in a series highlighting the responses of SECF members to the COVID-19 pandemic in their communities. We will use this series to highlight partnerships, coalitions and innovative examples of giving that help those affected by this crisis. If you are involved in a program you would like to see highlighted here, contact David Miller, director of marketing and communications, at


The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic are being felt everywhere in the Southeast. But few communities are more vulnerable to its immediate economic impact than Hilton Head Island and nearby Bluffton in South Carolina.

The area’s economy is highly dependent on tourism and hospitality. The wave of closures and stay-at-home orders caused by the outbreak hit right before the spring travel season, including Spring Break, got underway. 

“Tourism and hospitality are the backbone of the local economy so almost overnight, a large percentage of the working community found themselves without a stable income,” says Katherine Louw, executive director of the Watterson Family Foundation. “This community knows how to rebuild after a hurricane, but this proverbial storm is different because hit at the start of our regular tourist season, and there is no clear end in sight.”

With scores of locally-owned businesses and their workers facing a dire situation, a group of foundations have acted quickly to establish Help4Hope, a program that supports both groups at once.

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Member Highlight: Lynette Bell

Category: Member Highlight, 
Author: Southeastern Council of Foundations


This week marked not only the launch of the Truist Foundation, affiliated with the bank formed by the merger of SunTrust and BB&T, but also the announcement of the foundation’s first president, Lynette Bell.

Bell says that while the organization will build on the charitable legacies of both companies, including SunTrust’s historical presence in the Southeast, the Truist Foundation will take its own approach to philanthropy.

“The Truist Foundation is a new entity with new strategic giving priorities,” Lynette says. “The Truist Foundation strives to better the quality of life of individuals and communities. We partner with strong, innovative nonprofit organizations to increase their impact and expand their reach.”

At launch, the foundation’s four focus areas are leadership development, economic mobility, thriving communities and educational equity. As it advances these priorities, it will embrace a formal grant application process and, importantly, a new board that includes three independent community members.

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Member Highlight: Lisa Adkins

Category: Member Highlight, 
Author: Southeastern Council of Foundations


We're just days away from the debut of SECF's new podcast, The Bridge, which will share stories of how foundations are using various forms of philanthropic capital to bring people together, bridge divides within their communities, and help spark dialogue that leads the way to solutions.

The inaugural episode of The Bridge features two community foundation leaders in the region: Betsy Covington of the Community Foundation for the Chattahoochee Valley in Columbus, Georgia, and Lisa Adkins of the Blue Grass Community Foundation in Lexington, Kentucky. Both talked with SECF President & CEO Janine Lee about the On the Table initiative, which began in Chicago and has since spread to more than 30 communities across the country.

On the Table aims to bring groups of people together for in-person conversations that take place throughout the community over the course of a single day. On The Bridge, Adkins said her foundation was stunned by the outcome the first time they organized On the Table in 2017.

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SECF Staff Highlight: Olivia Murray

Tags: SECF Staff 
Category: Member Highlight, 
Author: Southeastern Council of Foundations


SECF's spring 2020 intern, Olivia Murray, came to our offices already armed with plenty of knowledge on the issues Southern philanthropy works to address. What she hopes to gain in the weeks ahead, she says, is perspective on the role foundations play in promoting equity and opportunity.

"I was drawn to SECF through my interest in nonprofit organizations as a vessel for social and economic progress," she says. "I wanted to learn more about how foundations choose which organizations to fund and how these funds impact the communities closest to me. SECF provided the perfect opportunity to educate myself in these areas, as well as take part in serving foundations that provide much-needed support around the Southeast."

Olivia, a senior at Georgia State University, has already worked with staff on this week's Philanthropy Essentials program and assisted with research in preparation for next month's Foundations on the Hill. She expects to continue focusing on public policy in the weeks ahead – an area that aligns well with her major, political science.

Olivia also has a strong interest in how states in the Southeast handle criminal justice issues. An earlier internship at the Southern Center for Human Rights, she says, reaffirmed her commitment to practicing civil rights law at a career.

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Member Highlight: Hannah Saeger Karnei

Category: Member Highlight, 
Author: Southeastern Council of Foundations


Since last June, Hannah Saeger Karnei has played a unique role at The Patterson Foundation – she’s the inaugural fellow of a program launched by the foundation in partnership with the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.

The Patterson Foundation Fellows Program, the foundation announced on its website, is “a year-long career-building opportunity to learn innovative philanthropic principles.” The foundation’s goal in launching the program is to “create a network of future leaders aligned in their innovative approach to philanthropy.”

“To me, this year-long fellows program represents an invaluable opportunity to work with and learn from a team of meticulously innovative philanthropists,” Hannah wrote on the foundation’s website when her fellowship began. “The Patterson Foundation strives to engage individuals, business, nonprofits, government, and media in every initiative. By including young philanthropic leaders such as myself as they work to build these networked initiatives, TPF is providing a unique learning opportunity in the art and science of relationship building, community engagement, strategic philanthropy, and achieving shared aspirations.”

Since her fellowship began, Hannah has regularly shared what she’s learned and experienced on the foundation’s blog. Not surprisingly, one benefit of her experience has been a rapid expansion of her professional network – though it hasn’t always come easily, she writes. 

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