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.

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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Public Policy Update - April 2021

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


Southern Philanthropy Well Represented at Foundations on the Hill 

Last month, SECF members turned out in force to bring one of the country’s largest delegations to Foundations on the Hill. Foundations from the region were well represented in several program sessions while organizing dozens of virtual visits with congressional leaders and staff.

Several SECF members participated in a session, Foundation Examples: Embedding Equity in Public Policy Work – the United Philanthropy Forum has made the recording of this session available to all SECF members! Please watch the discussion and feel free to share with your peers. Thank you to Darrin Goss, Sr., of the Coastal Community Foundation, Chynna Phillips of the Sisters of Charity Foundation of South Carolina and the Southern Education Foundation’s Kenita Williams for their leadership and voice on this issue! 

If you participated in FOTH this year, you will have access to recordings of each session and speech via SwapCard through December 31, 2021. If you did not attend, you can still view all FOTH programming through our friends at the United Philanthropy Forum, which is providing access to the platform at a post-conference rate of $79.


Biden Infrastructure Package Includes Some Funder Priorities, Leaves Out Taxes on Wealth or Endowments

Last week, President Biden released an outline of an ambitious $2 trillion infrastructure package. While coverage of the bill has focused largely on funding for roads, bridges, electrical grids and water systems, it also includes investments in several areas of interest to grantmakers.

Biden has proposed spending $100 billion to improve access to broadband and address the “digital divide” that affects underserved populations in both urban and rural areas. The proposal would also dedicate $213 billion to affordable and sustainable housing, $137 billion for early learning, K-12 public schools and community colleges, as well as $400 billion directed at home and community-based care for elderly and disabled people.

The legislation’s cost, so far, would be covered by tax increases on corporations and income of high-earners, as well as other measures. The White House is not seeking to incorporate a wealth tax like that proposed by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), which would tax households with a net worth above $50 million. The proposal would not affect charitable trusts or endowments.

Work on Biden’s infrastructure plan has only just started – Congress is in recess this week, though House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has signaled she would like to have a bill passed by July 4. Republican response to the proposal makes it likely the plan will be moved through the Senate via the same reconciliation process used for COVID relief legislation earlier this year.

We will continue to monitor negotiations on the package for any developments that may affect funder priorities or tax policy governing foundations.


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Research Update: Highlights from Recent Reports in the Field

Author: Stephen Sherman


SECF’s online Research Library is regularly updated with the latest reports relevant to Southern philanthropy. SECF members can browse over 400 research reports, websites, case studies, and other resources that we’ve cultivated to help funders stay abreast of trends in the field and learn about emerging best practices in philanthropy. 

Below are some of the key findings and highlights of the newest additions to the Research Library. If you would like to suggest a resource or have other feedback, contact Stephen Sherman, SECF’s Director of Research and Data, at or (404) 524-0911.


#JusticeIsTheFoundation: New Data on Racial Equity and Racial Justice Funding in Education Philanthropy

Schott Foundation for Public Education (2021)

The Schott Foundation for Public Education partnered with Candid to critically examine the distribution of grant dollars within education philanthropy, specifically the amount of funding directed towards racial equity and racial justice in education. This website offers key findings from their analysis, which looked at education grantmaking by foundations from 2010-2019. Results of the analysis showed that both racial equity and racial justice are dramatically underfunded categories in K-12 education, with only 10 percent of education funding in recent years focused on racial equity and less than 1 percent focused on racial justice. Furthermore, the amount of grant dollars awarded in these areas has actually declined over the past decade as need has increased. Findings also show that the geographic distribution of funding is uneven, with 63 percent of grants for racial justice in education going to recipients in the Northeast, 17 percent to recipients in the West, 16 percent awarded in the Southeast, and only 5 percent to Midwest recipients. 


11 Trends in Philanthropy for 2021

Johnson Center at Grand Valley State University (2021)

This white paper from the Johnson Center for Philanthropy at Grand Valley State University offers eleven key trends for the social sector in 2021. Each trend is highlighted in an essay written by a faculty member or expert in the field. Key trends for 2021 include continued disruption and change in the field; a unique opportunity to build civic trust; the growth of social justice funding; increasing scrutiny of community grantmaking; adoption of trauma-informed grantmaking practices; recognition of philanthropy's role in historic inequities; growing involvement of philanthropy in the public sphere; blurring of boundaries between philanthropy and business; globalization of philanthropy; increased prominence of data in decision-making; and coming shifts in philanthropy driven by next-generation donors and practitioners.


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SECF Members on Embedding Racial Equity in Public Policy Work

Author: Southeastern Council of Foundations


Last month, attendees at this year’s Foundations on the Hill had the opportunity to hear from three SECF leaders on how they can incorporate racial equity into their public policy work. Today, we’re excited to offer all our members the opportunity to view this informative and powerful session!

The session included insights from Darrin Goss, Sr., president and CEO of the Coastal Community Foundation of South Carolina, Chynna Phillips, research and policy director for the Sisters of Charity Foundation of South Carolina, and Kenita Williams, chief of staff and director of leadership development for the Southern Education Foundation.

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Share Your Grants Data to Show Philanthropy’s Response to 2020

Author: Southeastern Council of Foundations


As a partner on the Get on the Map campaign, SECF works with Candid to promote data sharing in the philanthropic sector. Last month, Candid launched its annual data collection campaign, and we invite our members to join this effort by sharing grants data through Candid’s eReporting program.

By joining the eReporting campaign, your organization will help inform resources like SECF’s Southern Trends Report and interactive tools like Candid’s Foundation Maps. These resources are used daily by your peers to assess gaps in funding, seek out potential partners, and determine where and how to target their investments. 

Your participation is also critical to ensuring that researchers, sector leaders, policymakers, and others have a clear picture of Southern philanthropy’s response to events in 2020. Last year, Candid launched two new data portals tracking philanthropy’s efforts in responding to COVID-19 and grantmaking to promote racial equity, both of which rely heavily on data shared directly by funders. Candid’s data is also regularly cited in research in the field, including recent reports from the Center for Disaster Philanthropy, the Schott Foundation for Public Education, and Media Impact Funders. We need your help to provide the most current and accurate data on foundation grantmaking for resources like these. 

If your organization is already an eReporting partner, thank you! You should have received instructions from Candid for reporting FY20 and FY21 data. Please remember to share your data by June 30, 2021

If your organization is new to eReporting, it’s easy to share your grants data. You can follow the instructions on this page, or simply email your grants data to For those who have never shared grants data before, we recommend using the “Simplified Template” available here. If you have questions, please feel free to email

As an added benefit, organizations that participate in eReporting receive an interactive map that visualizes their foundation’s grantmaking (see a sample here). Grants data is also incorporated into our regional giving map, available exclusively to SECF members. 

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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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Southeastern Council of Foundations
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Visiting SECF:
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Phone: (404) 524-0911
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Mission: The Southeastern Council of Foundations serves, connects, strengthens and champions philanthropy and philanthropic infrastructure in the South.