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.

Register today for SECF's 52nd Annual Meeting!

Category: Annual Meeting, 
Author: Southeastern Council of Foundations


November 10-12, 2021 | Asheville, North Carolina + Virtual
Two Ways to Attend!
Join Us in Asheville
Join Us Online
Registration for the 2021 Annual Meeting is now open
Note: In-person registration is limited this year - keep reading to learn how we are ensuring a safe and healthy Annual Meeting open to as many of our members as possible!


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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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The Power of Place-based Philanthropy and Courageous Leadership

Category: Leadership, 
Author: Deanna James


While most Americans probably could not pick My Place out on a world map, St. Croix, in the U.S. Virgin Islands, actually has national relevance. In addition to being the only predominantly black jurisdiction (under the U.S. flag) without any federal voting rights, my 84 square mile island was once home to the largest oil refinery in the world, based on throughput. It also has the distinction of enduring one of the largest (and quietest) oil spills in American history, to the tune of 43 million gallons that slowly leaked into the island’s largest freshwater aquifer. 

Ours is a perfectly coifed narrative, from a perfectly designed playbook wherein the economic development strategies chosen for my community followed the same patterns seen in Gulf states and poor communities around the country – stinky, dangerous refineries, steel mills, and coal mines planted in the poorest, often black and brown communities. Even national philanthropy has disenfranchised our “territory,” relegating us to “other” status, despite the fact that for over 100 years our story has mirrored the same environmentally and racially unjust models that have subjugated poor people and people of color. 

All of this historical context is offered to make the case for the power that philanthropy holds to lead differently and courageously at this moment in time when it matters most, and in the places most affected by inequity and injustice. For St. Croix Foundation, serving an isolated community has nurtured a uniquely radical brand of philanthropy and courageous leadership that we hope more in the field will adopt. 

Exhibit A: On May 13th, 2021, we hosted a highly charged Community Town Hall on an urgent environmental crisis. In attendance at our virtual convening were residents, nonprofit partners, local regulatory agents as well as federal representatives from the EPA, the CDC and national media. We developed targeted questions that we felt adequately addressed some of the concerns raised by community stakeholders and submitted them to invited guests in advance. Then, we designated a significant timeslot in the agenda to field questions from our audience. It was a powerful forum in true demonstration of one of the most fundamental roles that philanthropy should play in community – that of a neutral apolitical convener.

But we knew we were toeing the line between courageous leadership and controversy. We stepped over that line anyway. Having witnessed the suffering of residents left breathless for months from highly noxious gases wafting through downwind neighborhoods after the restart of an old refinery, we knew we had to act. Yet, even as two releases rained oil onto people’s homes, cars, and into their cisterns (rain catchment systems located under most homes which serve as the primary water source for island residents), we were shocked by how few stepped forward to acknowledge peoples’ pleas for relief or to actively attempt to alleviate their distress. 

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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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Public Policy Update - May 2021

Category: Public Policy, 
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


Second Part of Biden Infrastructure Plan Emphasizes Key Grantmaker Priorities

In our last Public Policy Update, we reviewed President Biden’s $2 billion infrastructure plan – while it did include funding for some items of concern to foundations, particularly broadband access, it was mostly geared toward a big investment in public works projects.

The second part of Biden’s plan, however, focuses on a different type of infrastructure – the social safety net. The $1.8 trillion proposal, known as the American Families Plan, would invest in areas familiar to philanthropy, including education, health care and childcare.

The plan would provide funding for two years of tuition-free community college, universal pre-K, paid family and medical leave and affordable childcare, among other programs. The proposal would be funded in part by $1.5 trillion in tax increases on individuals making more than $400,000.

Biden discussed both the earlier infrastructure plan and the American Families Plan during his address to a joint session of Congress earlier this month. 

In welcome news, the proposal does not include a 28 percent cap on itemized deductions, including the charitable deduction, that Biden floated during his campaign. In advance of the release of the American Families Plan, charitable organizations, including the Charitable Giving Coalition, sent letters to the administration requesting that the charitable deduction be excluded from any proposed caps on itemized deductions, the concern being that limiting the scope of the charitable deduction would significantly reduce charitable giving. 

Democrats in Congress are now beginning the work of moving Biden’s proposals through the legislative process – in the House, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has indicated she would like to pass a version of the plan by July 4. Biden and Democrats have made overtures to Republicans to craft a package with bipartisan support, but if that fails to produce an agreement, they still have the option of using the same budget reconciliation process employed for the COVID relief bill earlier this year. That tool, however, would require Biden to win the support of all 50 Democrats in the Senate, where they have the slimmest possible majority thanks to Vice President Kamala Harris’ tie-breaking vote.


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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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SECF's Next Chapter: A Commitment to Courageous Leadership

Author: Janine Lee


This week, we proudly announced our Courageous Leadership Strategy, a new strategic direction that will guide SECF’s work through 2025. We are incredibly excited to begin this new chapter of SECF’s history – one we believe will be transformative for not just our organization, but also all of Southern philanthropy and the communities in our region.

While this strategic direction will be used to establish concrete goals for our staff and Board – you can view our specific goals here – we sought to develop a plan for 2021-25 that would go beyond a list of items. We wanted to define a new approach for SECF that reflects all we have done in recent years as well as the challenges and opportunities of today. 

Thanks to the hard work of our Strategic Planning Task Force, our staff and our Board, I am confident we have succeeded in putting SECF on a bold path defined by a commitment to courage.

Our overriding goal for this new chapter is to not only demonstrate courageous leadership, but also call our members to it. We believe answering the call to courageous leadership will be essential to meet the opportunities and challenges facing both philanthropy in the South and communities in the South during the next five years. 

We plan to exercise courageous leadership by pursuing 10 priorities, both internal and external, plus a vital cross-cutting priority: ongoing integration of our Equity Framework, first introduced in 2019.

By committing ourselves to courageous leadership, SECF is also committing itself to mobilize people and resources, in our organization and our network, in service to a new mission: We will strengthen Southern philanthropy, welcoming our members to listen, learn and collaborate on ideas and actions to help build an equitable, prosperous South.

This work, we hope, will bring into reality a new vision: a courageous community of philanthropists, leading work that results in an equitable South defined by justice, hope and opportunity for all.

Fulfilling commitments to our new mission and vision, as well as the values and guiding principles we adopted last year, will require hard work. We must address critical issues facing philanthropy in the South and its communities. We must take risks and make bold leaps.

By adopting this new direction, we pledge to do all of these things – and will call our members to do the same. I am confident that many of you will answer this call. We look forward to sharing this journey with you!

Janine Lee is president and CEO of the Southeastern Council of Foundations.

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Verdict in George Floyd Murder Trial Is Progress, But Systemic Change Still Needed

Author: Southeastern Council of Foundations


This week’s verdict in Minneapolis represents a measure of accountability and progress in the struggle against anti-Black violence in America. For centuries, warrantless killings of Black men, women and children, particularly those carried out by law enforcement, have gone unpunished in America – this verdict is proof that this does not need to be the case and that change is possible. It is consistent with the ideals of liberty and equal justice under the law that our nation has aspired to since its founding.

However, the verdict does not change the fact that George Floyd should still be alive – Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and countless others should be as well. These deaths rob communities of fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, aunts and uncles. Each of these deaths ends a life that all of us should value.

To live out the belief that Black lives matter, we must build a society where everyone is treated equally under the law, where racial murders and violence are no longer acceptable nor routine, and where those who commit such acts are consistently brought to justice. Racism has had a corrupting effect on law enforcement and many other institutions, but we believe there are good people within these systems who can join together with courage, persistence and purpose to bring about systemic change.

We pledge ourselves to working with our members and the communities in our region to do this work, and to turn our shared vision of an equitable South, and an equitable America, into a reality.

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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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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.