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.

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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51st Annual Meeting Speaker Highlight: Richard Rothstein

Category: Annual Meeting, 
Author: Southeastern Council of Foundations


Federal law has outlawed housing discrimination based on race since 1968, yet nearly all of America’s major population centers are still heavily segregated – why?

That question lies at the heart of Richard Rothstein’s work, particularly his book, The Color of Law, which was released to acclaim in 2017 and has recently surged on bestseller lists in the wake of protests following the death of George Floyd that have sparked a national conversation on racial justice.

Rothstein’s work is centered around debunking what he calls America’s “national myth”: the idea that ongoing segregation isn’t the fault of public policy, but rather other factors outside the control of government.

“It’s pervasive across the political spectrum. Liberals and conservatives hold it. Blacks and whites hold it,” Rothstein says. “The name of that myth is we have de facto segregation. Not something that was created by government like all the other segregations that we undid in the 30s, 40s, 50s, and 60s, but this is something that sort of just happened by accident.”

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Registration Now Open for SECF's 51st Annual Meeting!

Category: Annual Meeting, 
Author: Southeastern Council of Foundations


Are You Ready to Lead the Way?
Registration Now Open for SECF's 51st Annual Meeting

Today, more than any other time in recent memory, our communities, region and nation are calling out for leadership.

An ongoing, deadly pandemic has turned lives upside-down, devastated our economy and stretched many of the organizations philanthropy supports to the breaking point. A long overdue reckoning on racial justice has shown the work of undoing centuries of systemic racism can no longer wait.

We cannot meet in person, but we must come together however we can. The moment demands it. Philanthropy must lead the way – but how?

We will explore this question, and many more, at SECF’s 51st Annual Meeting: Leading the Way.

Join us November 11-13, 2020, for an online event that will bring Southern philanthropy together in new ways while delivering the powerful speakers and sessions that have made the Annual Meeting the region’s premier philanthropic event for over 50 years!

Highlights of this year’s agenda include:

Powerful Keynote Speakers

Dr. David Williams
Harvard professor and
health equity expert
Richard Rothstein
Author, The Color of Law
Susan Taylor Batten
President & CEO, ABFE

Diverse & Dynamic Sessions, Including:

Storytelling for
Social Change
Courage in
Giving Community
Voice to Grantmaking
Race, Place &
Systemic Inequities

And more - View the Full Agenda!

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51st Annual Meeting Speaker Highlight: Dr. David Williams

Category: Annual Meeting, 
Author: Southeastern Council of Foundations


This is the first in a series of profiles of speakers at SECF's 51st Annual Meeting, an online event taking place November 11-13. Registration opens next week!

The two dominant stories of 2020 – the COVID-19 pandemic and a national reckoning on racial justice sparked by the murder of George Floyd – will both be reflected throughout the 51st Annual Meeting, from the virtual keynote stage to several breakout sessions.

Both topics, and the intersection between them, are familiar to this year’s Opening Keynote speaker, Dr. David Williams.

Williams, a professor of public health and chair of the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health, is one of the world’s leading experts on the social determinants of health, a list that includes socioeconomic status, race, stress, racism, health behavior and religious involvement. 

Through his research, Williams has found that experiencing racism itself leads to negative health consequences – for example, Blacks with college degrees have a lower life expectancy than whites who only have a high school diploma.

“When I started my career, many people believed that it was simply about racial differences in income and education,” Williams said in his TedMed talk, How Racism Makes Us Sick. “I discovered that while economic status matters to health, there is more to the story.”

Central to Williams’ research has been his work to quantify racism – not only major experiences like unfairly losing a job or being wrongly stopped by the police, but also everyday indignities that, over time, have real health consequences. The Everyday Discrimination Scale he devised in 1997 to measure experiences like these is still used today.

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Member Highlight: Martin Lehfeldt and Jamil Zainaldin

Author: Southeastern Council of Foundations


Last week's 50th Annual Meeting also served as the release party for The Liberating Promise of Philanthropy: Stories of Grant-Makers in the South, the new book by former SECF President Martin Lehfeldt and Georgia Humanities President Emeritus Jamil Zainaldin that chronicles the history of philanthropy in the region, from the Civil War to the present day.

Ahead of the book's release, Martin and Jamil answered questions about their work in an interview with the book's publisher, The Storyline Group.

Q: What is The Liberating Promise of Philanthropy about?

Martin Lehfeldt: As the title suggests, it is about grant-makers (i.e., philanthropic foundations) that have been active in the South -- Northern-based ones and, later, those indigenous to the South.

Q: For your purposes, what constitutes the South?

Jamil Zainaldin: Eleven states that were formerly part of the old Confederacy: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and Tennessee.

Q: How many grantmaking foundations are there in the South today?

Lehfeldt: About 16,000, with combined assets of about $100 billion.

Q: What prompted you to write the book?

Lehfeldt: David Hammack, one of the foremost historians of philanthropy, was compiling a book about foundation activity in various regions of the United States. He asked us to contribute a chapter about the South, which did appear in his book American Philanthropic Foundations: Regional Difference and Change (Indiana University Press, 2018).

We felt there was enough material to merit a full-length book on the topic. When the SECF and the Georgia Humanities Council (a grant-making nonprofit affiliated with the National Endowment for the Humanities) expressed interest in sponsoring a history-oriented book about Southern philanthropy, we were off and running.

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An Artist's Interpretation of the 50th Annual Meeting

Author: Southeastern Council of Foundations


If you joined us last week in Atlanta for our 50th Annual Meeting, you probably noticed Ross Boone, either in the back of the main ballroom or in the outside foyer, sketching away, capturing key moments from our general sessions and thoughts from SECF members on how the organization has helped them and their hopes for the future.

These sketches, known as visual recordings, are the specialty of The SketchEffect, an Atlanta-based company we partnered with for this year's Annual Meeting. Today, we're excited to share the final versions of these recordings with you. We also want to give a special thank you to Northern Trust, whose sponsorship allowed us to capture this year's meeting in such a unique, fun way.

Want to see the real things? Come by our office sometime soon -- several of them will be mounted on our walls!

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50th Annual Meeting Session Materials Now Online

Category: Annual Meeting, 
Author: Southeastern Council of Foundations


All SECF members now have access to presentations and handouts from our 50th Annual Meeting held last week in Atlanta. Whether you were able to join us or not, you can benefit from the information shared by philanthropic leaders, experts and thought leaders in breakout sessions and from our plenary stage.

You can access these materials, as well as our recap of the meeting and a gallery of images, from our 50th Annual Meeting webpage. This page will also be updated soon to include videos of Opening Keynote Isabel Wilkerson, our Founders Circle Award ceremony, the debut of SECF's Equity Framework and plenary sessions featuring Andy Goodman, Philippe Cousteau, Jr., and a panel conversation on philanthropy's ability to support nonprofit local media.

Please note that you will need to login in order to access session materials. If you believe materials are missing, please contact David Miller, director of marketing and communications, at

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SECF50 Celebrates the Past, Marks Turning Point in Journey Toward Equity in the South

Author: Southeastern Council of Foundations


After more than two years of planning by SECF staff and members, the 50th Annual Meeting did not disappoint, bringing more than 1,000 people together in Atlanta to mark five decades of philanthropic excellence in the South and begin writing a new chapter with equity as its foundation.

Inspiring opening and closing keynotes created an arc that grounded the 50th Annual Meeting in both the history of the region and the challenges and opportunities facing it today. Isabel Wilkerson, author of The Warmth of Other Suns, opened up the Annual Meeting by discussing the Great Migration of African-Americans from the region to escape Jim Crow and the terror of lynching, yet facing other forms for racism upon arriving in the North.

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50th Annual Meeting Speaker Highlight: Katharine Wilkinson

Author: Southeastern Council of Foundations


Conversations around climate change typically revolve around reducing or eliminating the use of fossil fuels – a big idea requiring massive changes to the globe’s energy infrastructure.

While there’s no doubt that switching to renewable sources of energy is critical to stabilizing temperatures, it’s also not an area where philanthropy, especially small and medium-sized funders, is able to make much of an impact.

But what about bike paths? Or educating girls in developing countries? Or preserving coastal wetlands?

All of these ideas, and many others that are regularly the focus of philanthropic investment, are tools to help address climate change. They’re all among the 100 solutions put forward by Project Drawdown, a climate change mitigation project that shines a light on the many ways humanity can reduce its carbon footprint.

Katharine Wilkinson, vice president of communications and engagement at Project Drawdown, will highlight some of these strategies, and how foundations can help promote them, at this year’s Annual Meeting.

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50th Annual Meeting Speaker Highlight: Shan Arora

Author: Southeastern Council of Foundations


The 50th Annual Meeting includes some new items on the agenda, including a series of intimate Salon Dinners on Thursday night that will allow small groups of attendees to explore key issues and converse with thought leaders at unique locations throughout Atlanta.

One of those venues, the Kendeda Building for Innovative Sustainable Design, is meant to inspire change across the entire Southeast. Built to the world’s most rigorous sustainable design and performance standard for buildings, it will harvest more energy than it uses on site through renewable sources and collect, treat and reuse more water than it needs on an annual basis.

The building, located on the Georgia Tech campus, opened in September, marking a significant achievement for Shan Arora, the building’s inaugural director. In a recent article reflecting on the building’s opening, Arora focused on how it can promote health and happiness.

“The first thing visitors typically notice is the amount of wood -- a natural material known to have a calming effect on humans. Or else it’s the daylight and the view of trees through the very windows that are letting the light in,” he wrote. “For most people, it’s only a matter of time before a relaxed smile spreads across their face.”

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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.

Monday-Thursday from 9:00am–6:00pm (ET)
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Phone: (404) 524-0911
Fax: (404) 523-5116

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