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.

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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Member Highlight: Nisha Powers

Category: Member Highlight, 
Author: Southeastern Council of Foundations


Nisha Powers, a co-chair of the Women's Foundation for a Greater Memphis Board of Directors, brings in a perspective not often seen in the world of foundations: that of a civil engineer.

Nisha, president of Memphis' Powers Hill Design, was recently recognized as a FACE of Memphis by StyleBlueprint, a digital publication connecting women to their community in Memphis and several other Southern cities.

In an interview with StyleBlueprint, Nisha said her experience within a male-dominated field has helped fuel her passion for helping other women through the foundation.

"Someone once told me if you can get your personal life, your professional life and your community life to be congruent, you will be a much happier person," she said. "I think about that in how we invest our philanthropic time and effort at Powers Hill. To me, WFGM is the best investment for us because it aligns our personal and community life with our work."

The alignment between Nisha's professional and philanthropic work runs both ways – the boutique firm she helps lead has taken on projects that were not only excellent examples of engineering but also helped some of Memphis' most vulnerable residents. One example she cited is helping the Memphis Zoo address parking issues.

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Member Highlight: Rhett Mabry

Category: Member Highlight, 
Author: Southeastern Council of Foundations


More than four years ago, The Duke Endowment was among a small group of foundations that came together to form Blue Meridian Partners, described at the time as "a new funders collaborative that aims to invest $1 billion in high-performance nonprofits poised to have national impact for economically disadvantaged children and youth."

Since then, Blue Meridian has evolved from a collaborative to an independent nonprofit organization making both national and regional investments -- the latter category includes the Get Ready Guilford Initiative, spearheaded by The Duke Endowment, which seeks to support the physical, social-emotional and cognitive well-being of children from birth to age eight in Guilford County, North Carolina.

The Duke Endowment's strategy for Get Ready Guilford aims to accelerate existing local efforts to improve early childhood outcomes—including healthy births, infant/toddler development, school readiness, and success by third grade—by bringing evidence-based programs to greater scale in these areas, improving the quality of local programs and catalyzing collective impact efforts.

In a recent interview posted at the Blue Meridian Partners website, Duke Endowment President Rhett Mabry said Get Ready Guilford and other programs like it are a direct result of working with other foundations through Blue Meridian -- The Duke Endowment is now one of the organization's Regional Partners.

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Member Highlight: Terry Mazany

Category: Member Highlight, 
Author: Southeastern Council of Foundations


At a time of increased scrutiny of community foundations and the funds they support, Terry Mazany, senior vice president of philanthropy at the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta, understands some of the questions foundations like his are facing.

"A community foundation has a dual mission to serve the community, where the needs are expressed, and the contributors of the capital, the donors," he told Nonprofit Quarterly in a recent interview. "And when it becomes narrowed to only one, the community foundation, I think, loses its ability to be maximally impactful to add the greatest value to the community."

An overemphasis on donors is just one recent criticism of community foundations. Others have been calling for greater regulation of donor-advised funds, including disclosure of donors. Some foundations have been criticized for managing funds that give to organizations considered hate groups.

Terry says the responsibility for rising above these attacks -- and confirming the place of community foundations as an engine for public good -- will require strong leadership focused more on impact than assets. Do that, he says, and "the money will follow."

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Member Highlight: Allen Mast

Category: Member Highlight, 
Author: Southeastern Council of Foundations


At last month's Annual Meeting, SECF members elected three new leaders to the Board of Trustees. We've profiled each of them here over the last three weeks.

As senior vice president at SunTrust's Foundations & Endowments Specialty Practice, Allen Mast doesn't work with just one foundation -- his work, which ranges from advising to board service, puts him in touch with a large and varied group of funders throughout the region.

Having first-hand experience working with so many foundations will undoubtedly help Allen as he begins his first term on the SECF Board of Trustees.

"The breadth of philanthropic interests that we see, and the variety of issues that we are often asked to address, has afforded me the opportunity to learn about many different programmatic areas plus a great deal about the technical aspects of foundation work," he said. "When I first entered the field, [former Foundation for the Mid South President] George Penick shared with me a simple, but profound, insight: Don't forget, when you have seen one foundation, you have seen ONE foundation. My current work confirms, on a daily basis, that each foundation is unique, with its own philanthropic mission and goals."

Allen has long been a fixture within the SECF network. He attended his first Annual Meeting in 1994, an experience he says cemented his closeness to the organization.

"I will never forget that first meeting," he said. "I was so impressed and moved by everyone's commitment to making the South a better and more equitable place. From that moment on, I knew that I wanted to join in and do my part."

Allen went on to participate in the Hull Fellows program and serve on multiple member committees. These experiences, he says, made it easy for him to agree to be nominated for the Board when asked.

"SECF has played a pivotal role in my development, both professionally and personally," Allen said. "As a result, my rule of thumb is to support SECF at every opportunity because really good things come from that support."

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Member Highlight: Hope Blackley-Logan

Category: Member Highlight, 
Author: Southeastern Council of Foundations


At last month's Annual Meeting, SECF members elected three new leaders to the Board of Trustees. Between now and the end of the year, we're profiling each of them here.

SECF has long prioritized public policy – and so does one of the newest members of the Board of Trustees, Hope Blackley-Logan.

Politics and policy are at the center of Hope's life. While she serves as a trustee of the Mary Black Foundation, she works full-time as district director for Rep. William Timmons, a Republican representing South Carolina's 4th Congressional District, which includes both Greenville and Spartanburg.

Having observed the political process firsthand, Hope encourages SECF to be determined and organized in pursuing policies that support foundations and charitable giving.

"I would love SECF to approach policy with the perspective that it is our job to not tire, to be persistent, and to have a pointed plan in addressing the needs of the SECF and those we serve – a knowledgeable plan with easy-to-follow talking points that show the strength and wealth of foundation work and will leave a lasting impression," she said.

Before joining Rep. Timmons' staff, Hope served as the appointed Clerk of Court in Spartanburg County. She also has a long history of work supporting the victims of crime, particularly children, and has served on multiple boards of community and professional organizations.

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