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.

Episode 2 of The Bridge Now Available for Listening!

Category: The Bridge, 


Episode 2 of The Bridge, SECF's podcast, is now available on all major podcast platforms!

This marks the first episode of The Bridge since both the COVID-19 pandemic and nationwide calls for racial equity and justice in the wake of the murder of George Floyd. SECF President & CEO Janine Lee leads a conversation addressing both these topics, talking with Cory Anderson, chief innovation officer at the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation in Little Rock, Arkansas, and Robert Dortch, vice president of program and community innovation at the Robins Foundation in Richmond, Virginia.

Each episode of The Bridge shares stories of the ways foundations are bringing together people in their communities to spark dialogue and lasting change. This new offering is one of the first initiatives to come as a result of our Equity Framework.

The Bridge can be streamed below and is also available on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts and other podcast providers! (Using another podcast app? Copy this link to add The Bridge to your subscriptions.) We expect to release at least one more episode of The Bridge this year – if you'd like to suggest a topic or person to interview, please contact David Miller, director of marketing and communications, at

We hope you enjoy listening!

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Responding to COVID-19 in... Appalachian Kentucky

Category: Coronavirus, 
Author: Southeastern Council of Foundations


This post continues 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

While the COVID-19 pandemic first took root in densely-populated cities, it has since found its way to rural communities – a shift that has contributed to rising hospitalization levels in Arkansas, North Carolina, South Carolina and Kentucky over the last two weeks.

Communities in eastern Kentucky, the hilly region once dominated by the coal mining industry, were already in a precarious state before the pandemic. Residents there have long experienced higher rates of cancer, diabetes, obesity, opioid addiction and pulmonary diseases, particularly Black Lung disease. The collapse of the mining industry brought with it widespread poverty and greatly reduced access to health care.

“Throughout central Appalachia, COVID is acting in a familiar pattern, one that we see in so many Southern places – effecting people who are already marginalized and living with health disparities at a greater rate,” said Gerry Roll, executive director of the Foundation for Appalachian Kentucky. “This in a region that has a rural healthcare system that we know is under-resourced and could be overwhelmed in the coming months.”

The pandemic’s arrival amid a massive economic shift has put incredible stress on the small towns that dot the region, Roll said, including nonprofit organizations.

“Small business and entrepreneurship have been major drivers for this economic transition, and we are concerned that our entrepreneurial sector may not be able to recover,” she said. “Nonprofits in our region are struggling just like they are across the country. The difference here, again like most rural and marginalized communities, is there are far fewer places to turn for support.”

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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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A Call to Action for Southern Philanthropy

Author: Southeastern Council of Foundations


“Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” – James Baldwin

The murder of George Floyd and the week of protests across the country in response have focused people’s attention as never before on issues of racial justice and police brutality. These events have coincided with a pandemic that has disproportionately affected communities of color through deaths, hospitalizations, health care costs, job losses and business closures.

These events weigh heavily on all of us. But they have also sparked a profound conversation on our nation’s long and painful history of systemic racial inequity, injustice, bigotry and discrimination. This conversation is long overdue ­– we cannot allow it to fade or dissipate, only to restart when another act of injustice commands our attention. Southern foundations should leverage their reputational capital and convening power to bring people together, bridge divides and ensure this dialogue not only continues, but also results in transformative changes.

As a network of Southern philanthropic organizations, we are acutely aware of our region’s own history. The names are etched into our memory: Emmett Till, Addie May Collins, Carol Denise McNair, Cynthia Wesley, Carole Rosamond Robertson, Johnny Robinson, James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner, Jimmie Lee Jackson, John Geer, William Chapman, Henry Glover, Kathryn Johnston, Anthony Hill, Walter Scott, Trayvon Martin, Jamarion Robinson, Alton Sterling, Keith Lamont Scott, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, David McAtee – they are only some of the people on a list that includes millions of enslaved Africans, thousands of victims of lynching and countless others whose deaths, whether at the hands of racist law enforcement, mob violence, or bigoted individuals, have continually been minimized, justified, ignored or even encouraged and carried out by those in power.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., an Atlanta native and a victim of racial violence himself, spent years leading a movement based on the principles of nonviolent resistance and civil disobedience – principles he never abandoned even as he and his supporters were often met with firehoses, attack dogs, tear gas and vicious beatings. While denouncing violence, he also understood the context in which it took place, saying “I think that we’ve got to see that a riot is the language of the unheard.”

We urge everyone in Southern philanthropy, as well as our political and civic leaders in the region, to keep these words in mind. Focusing on the actions of a few bad actors distracts us from the cause that has sparked this week’s protests. It also distracts us from discussing a far greater evil: hundreds of years of racial violence, discrimination and exclusion that continues today and is a direct cause of disparities in health, wealth, education, and other key measurements of prosperity.

In recent years, the Southeastern Council of Foundations has sought to highlight and improve understanding of these inequities and others. In our Equity Framework, we call on philanthropy in our region to acknowledge the historical roots of inequity and the present-day systems that perpetuate it, and to then use its resources to spark transformation that allows all people to reach their full potential, unhindered by hatred, bigotry, exclusion or discrimination.

Foundations have many tools at their disposal to create unity, promote peace and support justice for the people in their communities. Beyond financial resources, our social, moral, intellectual and reputational capital must be expended if we are to achieve real change, advance equity and embody the very meaning of philanthropy: love of humankind.

The past week not only shows just how important this work is, but also strengthens our commitment to it. We ask all people who share this goal to join us so that we, together, may build a region where all people can participate and prosper.

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Responding to COVID-19 in... St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands

Category: Coronavirus, 
Author: Southeastern Council of Foundations


This post continues 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

On the island of St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands, the first week of June also marks the start of a time of high alert: the Atlantic hurricane season.

This year, of course, has already been marked by crisis. The COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t hit the island as hard as the mainland United States, but its economic impacts are impossible to ignore in a place with an economy largely dependent on tourism and hospitality. Cruise ships, normally a regular presence at the island’s ports, have been shuttered for months. The local airport only receives one flight a day.

While there have been real consequences from the pandemic, resilience has been the defining feature of St. Croix’s pandemic experience, said Deanna James, president of the St. Croix Foundation for Community Development.

“For all intents and purposes, we live in a village. There are different human dynamics that happen in a village,” she said. “Basic needs are met in a much more different way than if you lived in an apartment in New York City and didn’t know anyone around you.

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Public Policy Update - June 2020

Author: Southeastern Council of Foundations


Each month, SECF provides members with monthly updates on the latest public policy developments in Washington and state capitols around the region, analyzing their possible impact on the charitable sector. If you would like to see an issue featured in a future Public Policy Update, contact Jaci Bertrand, SECF's vice president of member engagement, at


Pandemic Response Legislation

Congress Weighing Changes to Paycheck Protection Program: In the wake of the House nearly unanimously passing a bill that would provide more flexibility for businesses and nonprofit organizations taking Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans, Senate Republicans have voiced concerns. However, there is still a strong possibility of changes ultimately becoming law.

On May 28, the House, by a 417-1 vote, passed the Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act. The bill would extend the loan forgiveness window to 24 weeks, up from 8 weeks. The measure would also give recipients more flexibility in how they can use the loans by changing the so-called 75/25 rule. The new rule would require only 60 percent of the loan to go toward payroll to still qualify for forgiveness, down from the current 75 percent threshold. This legislation would also allow loan recipients to defer payroll taxes for a longer period of time.

Senate Small Business Committee Chairman Marco Rubio (R-FL) says there are technical errors in the House bill that could make it more difficult for recipients to get their loans forgiven, making it unlikely the Senate passes the House bill unchanged. The Senate is expected to move forward with its own set of changes to PPP, possibly extending the forgiveness window to 16 weeks.

Changes to PPP may also be folded into the so-called RESTART Act, which has been proposed by Sens. Todd Young (R-IN) and Michael Bennet (D-CO). This measure would extend the PPP loan forgiveness window to 16 weeks for businesses that have seen their revenues decline at least 25 percent during the original 8-week window. 

The bill would also create a new loan program to serve businesses and nonprofits with fewer than 5,000 employees. These loans – capped at $10 million – would be available to 501(c)(3) organizations and several other types of tax-exempt organizations. The loans would cover payroll, benefits and fixed operating expenses for recipients that have experienced significant revenue losses during the pandemic. Loan recipients with fewer than 500 employees would have an opportunity to have their loans forgiven, while nonprofit employers with more than 500 employees would receive more favorable loan terms without forgiveness.

A detailed summary of the RESTART Act with loan and repayment examples can be found here.

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Responding to COVID-19, and More, in... Nashville, Tennessee

Category: Coronavirus, 
Author: Amy Fair


This post continues 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. This installment was provided to SECF by Amy Fair, vice president of donor services at The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee.

If your foundation is involved in a program you would like to see highlighted here, contact David Miller, director of marketing and communications, at

Disaster Dispatch from Nashville: Tornado Recovery in the Midst of COVID-19

With the New Year being 2020 and the 10th anniversary of the historic 1,000-year floods in Tennessee, there were exhibits planned, news stories being prepared all around the city of Nashville, and an opinion piece in The New York Times titled “Nobody Cared When Nashville Drowned” from Nashville-based author and journalist Margaret Renkl.

To commemorate this natural disaster’s impact on our community, we decided that we didn’t want our activities to join the chorus of those looking back, although we knew these reflective activities would be beneficial. Instead, we set in motion a plan to look ahead and plan for the next disaster – we just didn’t know it would arrive so soon.

The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee’s history with supporting and funding disaster recovery in our community and elsewhere is nearly as long as our organizational history, which began in 1991. In partnership with donors, we have provided relief funding through the years for responding to disasters, including floods, hurricanes, mass shootings, tornadoes, typhoons, and wildfires. But our most significant role has been at home as a named partner in Metro Nashville and Davidson County’s Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan (CEMP). In this role, we provided $15 million in funding in Nashville and surrounding Middle Tennessee communities for relief and recovery efforts following the May 2010 Flood over the course of two years.

We also participated as a member of our local VOAD (Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster). VOAD continued to meet for several years after the funding of recovery was complete, but eventually went dormant when the concerns of disaster no longer felt like an immediate threat to our community, and when the members named in the CEMP agreement with the city continued to meet on a quarterly basis with Nashville’s Office of Emergency Management. 

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Responding to COVID-19 in... Hartsville, South Carolina



This post continues 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

Even though small towns are often just as vulnerable to the health and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, they also lack many of the tools and resources available in larger communities to help with response, relief and recovery.

Place-based philanthropy has a vital role to play in situations like these. One example comes from Hartsville, South Carolina, where the Byerly Foundation has emerged as a key player in the community’s response.

Hartsville, a city with a population of less than 8,000 in the northeast corner of the state, hasn’t been among a number of rural communities in the region to emerge as “hot spots” for the pandemic. However, it is still vulnerable to the considerable effects of school and business closures.

“All of us have been responding the various issues of the pandemic since the beginning of March. Hartsville, like everywhere else, ended up with more questions about what might be happening than specific issues that could be attacked,” said Richard Puffer, the Byerly Foundation’s executive director. “It became apparent to our city officials very early that this pandemic was going to have impacts that were never anticipated.”

Puffer and the foundation’s Board were eager to support the community it has called home since it was established in the 1990s. Thankfully, they were able to draw plenty of ideas and inspiration from the well-connected network of other South Carolina grantmakers responding to the pandemic.

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Announcing the First Selection of the Chair's Book Club: The Sun Does Shine

Author: Regan Gruber Moffitt and Robert Dortch


We are excited to invite you to join the new SECF Chair’s Book Club. Our hope is that the books we read and the discussions we have will inspire us to find common ground, build meaningful relationships, and deepen our understanding of equity.
The first book, The Sun Does Shine: How I Found Life, Freedom, and Justice by Anthony Ray Hinton, builds on the deeply moving and passionate keynote by Bryan Stevenson at the SECF’s 50th Annual Meeting last November.  Stevenson, who spent his career helping those who were unjustly accused or wrongfully convicted, called upon philanthropy to be proximate to the places, people and problems that our organizations support, to change existing narratives, to remain hopeful and, most importantly, to do things that are uncomfortable and inconvenient. Anthony Ray Hinton was one of those who was represented by Stevenson. 

The Sun Does Shine is Hinton’s memoir of peace, purpose, and eventually freedom after serving 30 years on Alabama’s death row after being wrongfully convicted. The brilliantly written personal narrative instructs, inspires, and creates an imperative for action. 

SECF is providing access to the eBook version of the title through our recently launched Lending Library, or you can obtain a copy through your local bookseller or public library. Sign up here to participate in the Chair’s Book Club and we’ll soon share more information on how to get started and how to engage in discussion groups with your fellow SECF members.

Regan Gruber Moffitt is chief strategy officer at the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation and chair of the SECF Board of Trustees. Robert Dortch is vice president of program and community innovation at the Robins Foundation and chair-elect of the SECF Board.

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Responding to COVID-19 in... Asheville, North Carolina

Author: Marsha Davis


This post continues 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. This installment was provided to SECF by Marsha Davis, co-director of organizational strategy and practice at The Tzedek Social Justice Fund, formerly known as the Amy Mandel and Katina Rodis Fund. 

If your foundation is involved in a program you would like to see highlighted here, contact David Miller, director of marketing and communications, at

Accelerating Change ­– A Model for a Funding Response to COVID-19

Like many of you, our fund has been rocked by this global pandemic. At the Tzedek Social Justice Fund (formerly known as the Amy Mandel and Katina Rodis Fund), our staff are juggling the lack of childcare and the time-consuming, sometimes traumatizing, preparation to protect the lives of the vulnerable individuals in our families. But, organizationally, what we hold is small in comparison to our grantees. 

Given our commitment to funding organizations that are working in the areas of LGBTQ justice, racial justice, and combatting anti-Semitism, particularly in Asheville, North Carolina, many of the leaders and organizations that we support are also suffering from the same injustices they work to combat. 

As an immediate response to our current grantees in Asheville, we diverted funds from future projects to provide these organizations much needed financial relief. The crisis has disrupted the operations of most of our grantees and many sources of funding have disappeared overnight. 

However, we are now months into the shutdown of North Carolina and emerging public data indicates that we need to shift our response to prepare for a year-long experience of instability and uncertainty in our community. How does a small family fund like ours build a nimble and strategic response? 

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