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: Takema Robinson

Tags: Louisiana 
Category: Annual Meeting, 
Author: Southeastern Council of Foundations


The expression “the more things change, the more they stay the same” could easily be applied to New Orleans, where despite the wake-up call and crisis sparked by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the city still suffers from troubling inequities the storm highlighted.

That pattern isn’t unique to New Orleans – across the region and the country, responses to crises often result in a return to the status quo without addressing whether that status quo was desirable in the first place.

Takema Robinson, executive director of the Greater New Orleans Funders Network (GNOFN) and CEO of her own consulting firm, knows this reality well.

“Following Hurricane Katrina, we witnessed $1 billion pour into our city during the recovery, and while much good work took place, we missed the opportunity to create long-term structural change,” she wrote recently on GNOFN’s website.

A similar situation is now unfolding with the COVID-19 pandemic, Robinson says, joining others who have rejected calls to “return to normal” and instead use crisis as a chance to invoke overdue change. She believes that philanthropy, specifically, must not let this opportunity pass it by.

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Public Policy Update - September 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


Work Continues on $3.5 Trillion “Social Infrastructure” Bill

The $3.5 trillion tax and spending package that forms the centerpiece of President Biden’s domestic agenda is now making its way through the legislative process in the House and Senate.

In the House, the Ways and Means Committee is crafting its part of the bill this week. Democrats suffered a setback today in the Energy and Commerce Committee, where three moderates in the party voted down a plan to allow the Department of Health and Human Services to negotiate lower drug prices for Medicare recipients.

That proposal – long a priority of Democratic leaders – provides a crucial part of the financing for the overall legislation. While it can be added back in, its defeat here reflects the unease some moderates in the party have with the legislation.

Senate Democrats are expected to release their own detailed version of the legislation this week. Over the weekend, moderate Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) indicated he remains opposed to the $3.5 trillion price tag that Biden and Democratic leaders in Congress have set for the bill.

The overall package still has to go through many steps and there are expected to be significant differences between the versions passed by the House and the Senate. We will continue monitoring the legislative package, which aims to address many areas of concern to grantmakers.


Hurricane Ida, Flooding Relief Likely to Be Part of Stopgap Spending Bill

The fiscal year ends on September 30 and with none of the regular spending bills passed into law, Congress will have to pass what’s known as a continuing resolution to prevent a government shutdown on October 1.

The resolution would keep the government running at existing funding levels. However, it will also likely include new spending to address immediate issues, including disaster relief for areas damaged by Hurricane Ida, flooding in central Tennessee and other natural disasters.


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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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Philanthropy Responds to Hurricane Ida

Author: Southeastern Council of Foundations


Hurricane Ida made landfall on August 29 as the second-most intense hurricane to strike Louisiana, behind only Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The storm has caused multiple deaths, left millions without power and caused at least $15 billion in damage in Louisiana alone.

A number of SECF members have responded by either establishing relief funds that are accepting donations or making grants of their own. Follow the links below to learn more.

Relief Funds

SECF Members Supporting Relief & Recovery

SECF co-sponsored a webinar for funders earlier today hosted by the Center for Disaster Philanthropy. A recording of the webinar will be posted here when it is available.

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Update on Annual Meeting COVID Protocols

Author: Southeastern Council of Foundations


This information was updated on August 26, 2021. Further updates will be posted here as needed.

Throughout our planning for SECF's 52nd Annual Meeting, we have been keeping a close eye on the state of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Delta variant has driven a significant spike in cases, hospitalizations and deaths, particularly in the South.

We are still planning to host our in-person meeting in Asheville but are making some changes to our meeting policies to protect the health and safety of our attendees and reflect the current state of the pandemic and the latest public health guidance.

First, we are changing our cancellation policy to allow attendees to cancel and receive a full refund, minus a $50 administrative fee, by October 1 -- a month later than normal. The state of the pandemic is changing constantly and rapidly. Pushing back our cancelation deadline gives attendees the ability to make an informed decision with a better idea of what the state of the pandemic will be in November.

Second, we will now require all Annual Meeting registrants to present either proof of full vaccination or a negative COVID test from the past 48 hours before attending any Annual Meeting functions. Speakers and staff will also be subject to this requirement. We are currently exploring several options for verifying this information on-site. Anyone who cannot present this information will be directed to testing options.

We want to encourage you to receive a COVID vaccination if you have not already. Vaccines are proven to be safe and incredibly effective at preventing severe cases. They remain the best tool we have for bringing this pandemic to an end.

We are continuing to assess all aspects of the Annual Meeting to ensure it is as safe as possible while providing an enjoyable, informative and inspiring experience. We will continue to provide updates as the meeting draws closer. In the meantime, we appreciate your continued support, understanding and flexibility.

The SECF staff is also available to help answer any questions you may have. You can call us at (404) 524-0911 or email Dena Chadwick, SECF's chief operating officer, at

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Annual Meeting Speaker Highlight: Paul Shoemaker

Category: Annual Meeting, 
Author: Southeastern Council of Foundations


Before the Annual Meeting revs up for attendees online and in Asheville, foundation CEOs will have the chance to connect with one another through the CEO Forum preconference on Wednesday morning.

The CEO Forum – both the Annual Meeting offering and the annual spring event – has long focused on big topics facing philanthropic executives: strategy, leadership, vision and change. Each of these are important to this year’s CEO Forum facilitator, Paul Shoemaker.

“My job is to be a messenger and to help people understand that they can utilize their tools and talents to be the most impactful advocate they can be for the cause they care most about,” Shoemaker said in an interview promoting one of his books, Can’t Not Do. “I want to help people to recognize their power to create social good.”

Shoemaker is notable for having a particular interest in the work of philanthropy, a subject he’s written about in publications like Stanford Social Innovation Review. He has called on the sector to fundamentally change its underlying practices in order to achieve the most good.

“We have good materials (committed people, financial capital, promising solutions) but are sometimes using outdated practices that are often more grounded in an inside-out, funder-centric point of view than the external realities of the grantees, programs, and systems we seek to change,” he wrote. “We need to become far more outside in, driven by external realities and signals.”

One change that’s needed, Shoemaker writes, is greater funding for general operating support – an idea that many have advocated, but still faces resistance. He goes further, however, describing funding restricted to specific programs as “quite damaging.”

“We are using a practice that weakens the entire structure of grantees we hope to build,” Shoemaker wrote. “If we want to make sure that funds go toward an intended social outcome, we must make an agreement on the mutual outcome and let grantees decide how to best spend the funds (the means) to achieve that goal (the end).”

While Shoemaker has called on the sector to change the way it supports nonprofits financially, he also believes that other forms of philanthropic capital are just as important – if not more.

“There are so many resources that we have beyond finances, and in order to make money effective, we have to use them,” he writes. “Money absolutely matters, but anyone who says that money alone will solve the world’s problems is wrong – every aspect of change has a human face.”

Shoemaker is the founding president of Social Venture Partners International, a global network of thousands of social innovators, entrepreneurs, philanthropists, and business leaders supporting social change agents in over 40 cities and eight countries.

Along with Can’t Not Do, he is also the author of Taking Charge of Change, which shares stories of “Rebuilders” who are tackling big problems in their work.

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Annual Meeting Speaker Highlight: Dr. Michelle Rozen

Author: Southeastern Council of Foundations


The theme of SECF’s 52nd Annual Meeting is “A New Day, A New Way” – but what exactly will a new way look like?

Dr. Michelle Rozen, this year’s Friday morning plenary speaker, has a few ideas.

“Getting back not just to a new normal but actually to a better normal requires leaders to double-down on their soft skills and provide the people they’re leading a lot more support,” she wrote recently on her website. “Together, as teams, leaders and individuals, we can up our game when it comes to our people skills. We can lead better. We can become better.”

Leading better is Rozen’s specialty. She’s emerged in recent years as one of the country’s top authorities on leading change. Dozens of Fortune 500 companies have benefited from her advice and guidance. She’s also recently published a book, 2 Second Decisions: The Secret Formula for Leading Change by Making Quick Winning Choices.

Rozen doesn’t expect leaders to decide in two seconds whether to make a hire or go in a new strategic direction – but she does believe it should only take that long to set priorities.

“Prioritize by making 2-second decisions on what matters the most to you, and just get out of your own head and give yourself a number,” she writes. “If you have certain things today that you assess as a ‘10’ for you, you decide that no matter what, those are the things that you are going to focus on. The twos, the ones, the threes – they can wait for later.”

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Annual Meeting Speaker Highlight: Raj Chetty

Category: Annual Meeting, 
Author: Southeastern Council of Foundations


For the past five years, any list of suggested Annual Meeting speakers has seen Raj Chetty’s name toward the very top.

It’s not hard to understand why – Chetty’s groundbreaking research has leveraged the combination of computational power and massive data sets to reveal striking truths about social mobility and inequality in America. For grantmakers seeking to make the biggest impact with their investments, Chetty’s findings are indispensable.

Since 2018, Chetty has led the work of Opportunity Insights, a research and policy institute housed at Harvard University. Soon after it was established, Opportunity Insights released The Opportunity Atlas, which allows visitors to examine, down to the Census tract level, the impact race, gender and parental income have on the next generation.

The story told by this data is not encouraging. In short, where someone was born plays an outsized impact on their ability to climb the socioeconomic ladder. The impact of racism is impossible to ignore – for Black children, escaping generational poverty is far more difficult than for white children, even when other variables remain the same.

Chetty’s work, however, does not end once the data is published. “The big-picture goal,” Chetty told The Atlantic in 2019, “is to revive the American dream.”

To achieve that incredible goal, Chetty and Opportunity Insights have forged partnerships with cities across the country, including Charlotte, where its partners include the Foundation for the Carolinas and the Gambrell Foundation. Last year, Opportunity Insights released its first report on the Charlotte Opportunity Initiative.

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July 2021 Research Update: Highlights from Recent Reports in the Field

Tags: SECF Staff 
Category: Research & Data, 
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.


Values Proposition: How and Why We Transformed Our Investment Model to Align Our Capital with Our Mission

Nathan Cummings Foundation (2021)

This report from the Nathan Cummings Foundation examines the organization's experience with aligning the full corpus of its $450 million endowment with its mission. The foundation accomplished this both by reallocating its investments and by reassessing its investment advisors and fund managers. Based on the foundation's success, this publication explores the potential for mission-aligned investing to enhance mission impact while continuing to meet financial goals. The report discusses key findings from the foundation's experience with mission investing and offers insights for other funders wishing to follow a similar path. Points of discussion include engaging an OCIO, developing measurement strategies, and investing in racial equity. Appendices include NCF's statement of values, its equity lens framework for investment advisors, and sample language for requesting diversity, equity, and inclusion data as part of a request for information from investment firms.


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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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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)
Friday from 9:00am–12:00pm (ET)

Phone: (404) 524-0911
Fax: (404) 523-5116

Mission: SECF strengthens Southern philanthropy, welcoming our members to listen, learn and collaborate on ideas and actions to help build an equitable, prosperous South.