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.

Annual Meeting Speaker Highlight: Lexi Paza

Author: Southeastern Council of Foundations


Nonprofits need a lot of things to run effectively, some of which are easy to take for granted – like space.

Even during a time when working from home has become far more common, nonprofits that are active in their communities still need a way to bring people – staff, board members, partners, the people they serve, and more – into a shared space.

Often, however, that can be in short supply. Small towns don’t have enough, and in big cities, it’s too expensive to rent or own. That’s where nonprofit centers come into play.

These spaces provide a place multiple nonprofits in a community can use when needed. Several already exist throughout the Southeast – examples include The Spartanburg County Foundation’s Robert Hett Chapman III Center for Philanthropy and the PATH Foundation’s Resource Center.

Foundations, however, aren’t usually in the real estate business. Thankfully, The Nonprofit Centers Network, based in Denver, has established itself as a thought leader in what it calls “social purpose real estate.”

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SECF Staff Highlight: Carlos Peralta

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


SECF has a long history of bringing on a summer intern from Emory University’s Ethics and Servant Leadership program – a history interrupted last year by the COVID pandemic.

This summer, however, the program resumed with Carlos Peralta, a recent Emory graduate who has supported the SECF staff throughout the summer. While there have been no in-person programs to attend, Carlos has worked closely with SECF’s membership team on recruitment and retention efforts, along with research projects. He’s also been able to interact with the entire SECF team by attending virtual staff meetings throughout his internship.

Carlos said his experience with SECF has brought him much closer to the world of philanthropy than he would have expected a few years ago.

“Growing up, philanthropy seemed like an end goal, an aspiration, something unattainable, something reserved for the wealthy,” he said. “I have always wanted to contribute back to my community, as I have been fortunate to have people and organizations that have helped me in my journey so far. I find the feeling of helping others very rewarding. Whether directly or indirectly, I believed I could find this opportunity at SECF.”

As part of his internship, Carlos has had the opportunity to meet virtually with SECF members, including staff at the Robert W. Woodruff Foundation and the Community Foundation of South Georgia – he said learning about the inner workings of community foundations was one of the most surprising things about his time at SECF.

“One of the most exciting and interesting things that I learned is the various types of gifts that community foundations can accept,” Carlos said. “Community foundations often get offered pretty bizarre gifts such as lands, copyrights, arts, patent payments, and other assets!”

Along with learning about some of the quirks of the field, Carlos said he’s also gained an appreciation for the hard work of community foundations in some of the region’s more rural areas.

“Unlike large urban areas like Atlanta, most nonprofits in the Southeast are not as well known or established,” he said. “Community foundations have to look for the right organizations where the funds would have the most impact.”

Like many people fresh out of college, Carlos, who studied economics and Italian, hasn’t yet made up his mind on what he’ll do now that he’s out of school. Still, he feels very fortunate as a first-generation college graduate from a family of immigrants.

“I began working when I was 10 years old. While plenty of kids my age were on vacation somewhere, my summers ranged from planting and picking vegetables in fields, working under hazardous conditions in the construction industry, and working as a housekeeper staff in a hotel,” he said. “I am actually grateful for my upbringing as it has shown me the things that really matter, such as family.”

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Member Highlight: Mari Kuraishi

Category: Member Highlight, 
Author: Southeastern Council of Foundations


This week's Member Highlight will also run in the upcoming issue of our Inspiration magazine, arriving at member offices and on later this month!

Just over two years ago, Mari Kuraishi moved from leading philanthropy on a global scale to taking the reins at one of the region’s most prominent place-based funders, the Jessie Ball duPont Fund in Jacksonville, Florida. As Mari prepares to take the stage during SECF’s 52nd Annual Meeting, we checked in with her to discuss how she’s brought her own vision to the Fund during an incredibly eventful, unpredictable time.


You joined the Jessie Ball duPont Fund as president in early 2019. After more than two years with the Fund, what are you most proud of?

Shortly after joining the Fund, the City of Jacksonville asked me to get engaged in the work they were doing to design and build a park commemorating native sons James Weldon Johnson and John Rosamond Johnson and their “Negro National Anthem” Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing, specifically to ensure that the process would engage key community stakeholders. Fast forward to today: We have designed the park, shared the design with the public to great positive response, and plan to complete it by the Jacksonville Bicentennial in 2022. The thing I am most proud of is a letter I got last month from one of the key advocates for the park. I had written him a letter after a ceremonial groundbreaking we hosted at the site, thanking him for his tireless efforts. He wrote back to say, “I worked on the Johnson Brothers project for 12 years and so many people told me I was wasting my time and efforts. When I met you, you told me it would be done.” I can’t tell you how gratifying that was.


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Member Highlight: Christine Calpin

Category: Member Highlight, 
Author: Southeastern Council of Foundations


Casey Family Programs is quite literally a national funder – it works to support children and families in all 50 states, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and tribal nations.

However, the operating foundation clearly understands the importance of the South to its broader mission. It’s an active and engaged member of SECF and its managing director of public policy, Christine Calpin, has served for several years on the SECF Public Policy Committee.

“Our work in the South and SECF is centered in our belief that we must be sure to engage in all communities and with partners like SECF to realize our goal of all children living with their families in thriving communities,” Christine said. “As part of our national strategy, we have invested our resources and aligned our work to be sure we are engaged in as many communities as possible.”

Recently, Christine deepened her involvement by joining the Advocacy Subcommittee – the first of four new subcommittees established to work with the Equity Committee on integrating the Equity Framework into SECF’s internal and external operations. 

The subcommittee’s priorities for this year are to develop an advocacy strategy that will support achieving equity through changes in policies, practices and systems, and to establish a process for collaboration between the SECF Public Policy and Equity Committees.

“There is little question that policies at the federal, state, local, and tribal level have led to the inequities we see,” Christine said. “If we are to truly be successful in advancing equity, we must examine and truly understand all of our history and experiences which have created the challenges and barriers that exist today. That includes looking at our policies through a lens of equity.”

Public policy has also long been essential to the work Casey Family Programs does across the country. Christine believes policy advocacy is one of the best tools available to philanthropy as it works to improve communities and the lives of people.

“Philanthropy plays such a pivotal role in our communities in understanding the challenges and also seeing solutions, and so I hope we can continue to influence policy that aligns with our values and truly allows our families to live in thriving communities,” she said. “I hope the work of the Public Policy Committee can truly bring the voice of philanthropy forward in how best to advance outcomes among children and families.”

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Member Highlight: David Lewis

Author: Southeastern Council of Foundations


Leadership development in Southern philanthropy has long been part of SECF’s mission and work, as seen in programs like the CEO Forum and the Hull Fellows program.

It made sense, then, to establish a special group dedicated to applying an equity lens to this type of work – that group, the Equity Committee’s Equity Leadership Opportunities Subcommittee, met for the first time in April.

One of the subcommittee’s members, David Lewis, is an equity officer at the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation in Little Rock, Arkansas. Leadership development, he says, is critical to promoting equity in Southern communities.

“Advancing any type of change requires a great deal of courage on the part of those organizing for change – as such, the movement for equity demands a courageous disposition,” David said. “Those who expect to lead the masses must be risk takers who are unafraid to support the unconventional and embrace the idea of reimagining how we show up in communities, how we support communities, and how we build agency within communities for sustainable change.”

The subcommittee is a natural fit for David in a number of ways – his portfolio at the foundation is specifically focused on leadership development and movement building. Plus, as a relative newcomer to philanthropy – he started at the foundation in October 2019 – he is on the same journey as many others who are new to the field.

“The Equity Leadership Opportunities Subcommittee is an excellent place for me to use my knowledge and skills in the areas of organizational and leadership development to advance SECF’s transformative equity framework throughout the region,” he said. “While there were many things that excited me about this opportunity, the most exciting has been the ability to bring a different perspective to the larger conversation as an emerging professional in philanthropy.”

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Member Highlight: David Galvin

Author: Southeastern Council of Foundations


p>SECF’s commitment to equity is about more than the work of our members – it also extends to our own actions and policies.

To help ensure SECF lives its values, the Equity Committee recently established an HR Policy Subcommittee focused on the organization’s internal practices. The committee’s roster includes the voices of human resources professionals who work for SECF members – including David Galvin, the senior director of HR and operations at the Coastal Community Foundation (CCF).

David has plenty of hands-on experience developing new HR policies – he was the foundation’s first-ever HR officer when he joined the staff in 2018 after being hired by CEO Darrin Goss, Sr.

“He immediately demonstrated that his commitment to our coastal South Carolina communities included our hard-working staff members, as much of CCF’s success links directly to the success of our team members both at work and outside of work,” David said. “Over the past few years, CCF has improved employee benefits and promoted a healthy work-life balance.”

Since his hiring, David had helped implement policies that deal with the basics of HR – retirement plans, time off, etc. – while also aligning with the foundation’s values. For example, employees can take paid time off to volunteer with local nonprofits and are able to evaluate themselves with a tool that helps them see how their work connects directly to CCF’s Purpose, Core Values, and Strategic Framework. 

One of those Core Values, a commitment to inclusion with equity, has had a direct impact on the foundation’s recruitment and hiring, David said.

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Member Highlight: Rev. Shantell Hinton Hill

Category: Member Highlight, 
Author: Southeastern Council of Foundations


The ongoing integration of SECF’s Equity Framework will depend in part on member leadership – in particular, the voices on the Equity Committee and its four subcommittees, including a group focused on Reimagining Equity-Focused Grantmaking.

One member of that subcommittee, the Rev. Shantell Hinton Hill, says she is excited to bring a variety of perspectives to the table as the group begins its work.

“It excites me to use my knowledge and embodied experiences to inform what innovative solutions could look like,” she says. “Equity-centric grantmaking is the only response in a world that teaches us scarcity above sustenance. Without this necessary reimagination of what philanthropy could be, funders will remain a part of the problem.”

Those embodied experiences go beyond her work as an equity officer at the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation in Little Rock, Arkansas. Shantell is also an ordained minister.

“Everything I know about meeting people where they are and building them up to become their highest selves, comes from my upbringing in the Black Church,” she says. “Just as the pandemic has caused everyone to shift their ‘normal’ ways of going, being, and doing in the world, I believe philanthropy is called to do the same.”

Shantell’s work with the Equity Committee is a natural extension of her day job, where she helps lead the foundation’s implementation of its AR Equity 2025 strategic direction. The foundation has placed a particular focus on a group of people described by the acronym A.L.I.C.E. – asset limited, income constrained, employed.

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Member Highlight: Troy Fountain

Category: Member Highlight, 
Author: Southeastern Council of Foundations


When Troy Fountain joined the staff of the Wiregrass Foundation as executive vice president in early 2020, a clear plan was in place: spend a year learning the ropes from outgoing president Barbara Alford, then take over for her in 2021.

That’s exactly what happened, but it doesn’t tell the full story, of course – the past year ended up testing Troy and the foundation in ways he could have never expected, but also in ways that allowed him to see leadership on display on a regular basis.

“Even though 2020 was a different year from many, the principles of leadership learned from Dr. Alford were timeless,” Troy said. “One example is that of learning to ask the right questions. Dr. Alford modeled this well and helped me understand that good strategy comes from good answers to the right questions.”

Troy is now putting what he’s learned to use, leading work on a number of projects, including a Transformation Through the Arts initiative that will be profiled in the upcoming issue of SECF’s Inspiration magazine. That work has seen the foundation serve as a convener, bringing together a diverse set of partners to boost the arts in and around Dothan, Alabama.

Troy said the foundation’s experience with Transformation Through the Arts offers lessons that can be useful to other foundations, no matter the community they serve or the subject area they focus on.

“Most of us live in very diverse communities and every voice needs to have the opportunity to be heard,” he said. “We have worked hard while working on Transformation Through the Arts to make sure that every part of our community is heard and or represented in meetings and planning events. People are more likely to buy into a project where they feel that their voice has been listened to and considered.”

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Member Highlight: Upendo Shabazz

Category: Member Highlight, 
Author: Southeastern Council of Foundations


One year ago, Upendo Shabazz was in a role that suited her extroverted nature: As leader of Allegany Franciscan Ministries’ Common Good Initiative, she got to work in the community with individuals and organizations in three underserved Florida communities.

The COVID-19 pandemic upended all that – being out in the community, at least physically, was no longer an option. But that’s when she discovered her pandemic mantra: “TRUST THE WORK.”

“This saying has shaped my entire scope of work this past year,” she said. “I work in community on the ground with residents, stakeholders, government and philanthropy. When the pandemic began, I had to ‘trust’ that everything we set in motion through the Common Good Initiative would continue. I had to let go of the power and allow the power of community that we had invested in to cultivate.”

It turned out that multi-year investment paid off – the Common Good Initiative had helped build relationships and capacity that allowed organizations to respond to the pandemic in ways they might not have before, helping local businesses secure federal loans and ensuring connections developed with business and faith groups persisted despite the need for physical distancing.

The Initiative is shaping up to be a Passing Gear philanthropy success story, an example of how foundations can use multiple forms of capital to achieve a greater impact than through grantmaking alone. That work is one reason why Upendo was a natural choice to lead a module at SECF’s recent Philanthropy Essentials program called Maximizing Impact with Large-Scale Strategies.

“Traditional grantmaking will always be a strategy to addressing basic needs and will continue to be a measure for charity,” Upendo said. However, large-scale strategies often involve listening, learning and leading – convening – and development of an ideal that represents the ‘solution.’ This type of approach becomes less about activity and more about building relationships that become vested in a collective outcome.”

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Member Highlight: Chynna Phillips

Author: Southeastern Council of Foundations


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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Southeastern Council of Foundations
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Visiting SECF:
All staff are working remotely at this time but can still be reached via email and by calling (404) 524-0911.

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Phone: (404) 524-0911
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Mission: SECF strengthens Southern philanthropy, welcoming our members to listen, learn and collaborate on ideas and actions to help build an equitable, prosperous South.