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.

2020 Annual Report: Tested, Resilient and Ready

Category: Announcements, 
Author: Southeastern Council of Foundations


2020 was a year that tested us like never before.

Our homes became our offices… and some of our home offices became classrooms.

We sheltered in place… but turned out to vote in record numbers.

We covered our faces… but raised our voices to fight for racial justice.

In philanthropy, we experienced moments of doubt, disbelief and pain – but also moments of determination, inspiration and innovation.

At SECF, we learned a lot – about the power of philanthropy, about the dedication of SECF members to their communities and about our own ability to adapt, grow and meet the needs of this unique moment.

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Hull Fellows Highlight: Wesley Prater

Author: Southeastern Council of Foundations


Before entering philanthropy, Wesley Prater worked on behalf of retired citizens in Ohio. He analyzed health policy in Washington, D.C. He has also studied at institutions like Yale University and Ohio State University.

Through it all, however, he’s only called one place home – Mississippi, where he now works at a program officer for the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

“I have been fortunate to live in different parts of the country throughout my adult life and travel around the world, but there is no place I love more than my home state of Mississippi,” he said. “The strength, intelligence, success, and love I have witnessed from Mississippians gives me more hope than ever for the state’s future.”

Though based in Michigan, the Kellogg Foundation has made Mississippi a priority place for its investments as part of its work to advance racial equity. Wesley’s work there has focused on health care policy and advocacy efforts.

“The W.K. Kellogg Foundation has a long history of supporting racial justice and racial equity not only in the South but across the globe,” Wesley said. “The past year has reinforced the importance of our work to continue working with communities to address the critical needs of children and families, support the nonprofit sector, and tackle issues around racial injustice.”

While his previous work and studies prepared him well for much of his current role, Wesley came to the Kellogg Foundation without much experience within philanthropy. He said SECF’s Hull Fellows program has helped him better understand the sector’s role in helping communities.

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Hull Fellows Highlight: Monique Pitts-Taylor

Author: Southeastern Council of Foundations


Scholarship programs have been a part of the philanthropic toolbox for decades, allowing foundations to provide direct aid to young members of the community seeking a college education.

The importance of these programs has become more apparent than ever in recent years, as long-standing educational disparities in America, particularly those affecting Black communities, have received long overdue attention.

For Monique Pitts-Taylor, the scholarship director at the Community Foundation of Central Georgia, this work is deeply personal and motivating.

“The pandemic did not reveal a new call for racial justice, it just intensely magnified what others have looked away from for many years,” she said. “As an African American female, I have always saw the need for racial justice and equity in my area of work. Being a scholarship director, I have always felt that it is my duty to ensure that all eligible students are given the equal opportunity to compete for funding for college.”

The passion Monique brings to her work has also motivated her to develop herself as a leader – she recently finished a year of work in the 2019-20 class of Hull Fellows.

“I was motivated to participate in the Hull Fellows program because I wanted the opportunity to learn and grow with a diverse group of leaders,” she said. “I saw this program as an opportunity to meet new people and learn new ideas in this awesome world of philanthropy.”

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Hull Fellows Highlight: Danielle Gray

Author: Southeastern Council of Foundations


Throughout its history, the Hull Fellows program has developed a deserved reputation for propelling its participants to leadership roles within Southern philanthropy – sometimes, the process even begins before the fellowship is over.

That’s exactly what happened to Danielle Gray. When she joined the 2019-20 Hull Fellows class, she was a program officer at the R. Howard Dobbs, Jr. Foundation in Atlanta. By time she finished her Capstone Project, she was associate director of The Zeist Foundation.

Having settled into her new role, Danielle says she’s excited to work with The Zeist Foundation board during a period of transition.

“We will be onboarding the first group of Next Generation trustees, moving toward a paperless office, and re-evaluating internal systems all while operating in a time that is anything but business as usual,” she said. “I am excited to dig in on all these fronts, but I think I’m most excited about helping with the Next Generation transition and working with them to not only establish their roles as trustees, but also lay a foundation that continues to engage and prepare subsequent generations for board service through informal participation in philanthropy and community.”

That’s a heavy workload, but Danielle is well equipped to handle it. She has already worked for two family foundations and, thanks to the Hull program, has a nearby mentor with similar experience: Lynn Pattillo, president of The Pittulloch Foundation. 

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Public Policy Update - February 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


Attending Foundations on the Hill Is Easier Than Ever – Here Are Five Reasons Why

Foundations on the Hill – SECF members’ best chance all year to connect with lawmakers in Washington – is going virtual this year. That means it’s never been easier to attend as part of the SECF delegation.

If you’ve never attended FOTH before, here are five reasons why you should make this the year you join us:

  1. Virtual FOTH is an incredible value. For just $99, you’ll be able to participate in multiple meetings with members of Congress and their staff. You will also be able to learn more about public policy by attending virtual sessions presented by our partners at the United Philanthropy Forum.
  2. FOTH works with your schedule. Meetings with members of Congress will take place throughout six days spread between two weeks – March 16-18 and 23-25. This flexible approach will make it easier to meet lawmakers without getting in the way of the rest of your work!
  3. You can attend without leaving your desk. Usually, attending Foundations on the Hill requires leaving town for a few days, flying to Washington and staying in a hotel. This year, all you need to do is join a videoconference from your home or office! 
  4. You’ll be supported every step of the way. Before, during and after your meetings with lawmakers, you’ll benefit from the support of the SECF staff as well as fellow members who have stepped up to serve as state captains. You’ll have everything you need to make your FOTH meetings a success!
  5. You’ll forge new and valuable relationships. Members of Congress not only write legislation that regulates our sector – they can also facilitate partnerships that help further your foundation’s mission. You’ll also get to connect with other SECF members, especially those in your own state!

You can sign up for FOTH now if you’re already convinced, but if you’d like to learn more, register now for our February 17 webinar, Public Policy 101: Why You Belong at Foundations on the Hill!

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Hull Fellows Highlight: Margy Thomas

Author: Southeastern Council of Foundations


Much of Margy Thomas’ life and career has been devoted to her hometown of Warrenton, Virginia, a town of about 10,000 people situated between the fringes of exurban Washington, D.C., and the state’s rural Piedmont region.

Her dedication to Warrenton eventually led her to the PATH Foundation, a health legacy funder focused on access to health care, child wellness, mental health and senior services. As a program officer, Margy is able to put her extensive public health education and experience to work – while earning her master’s degree in public health, she even worked with the local government in Warrenton on a Health Impact Assessment.

Already armed with expertise, experience and deep bonds to the community she serves, Margy decided in 2019 to take her development to the next level by signing up for SECF’s Hull Fellows program.

“I was eager to apply to the Hull Fellows program after experiencing the rich hands-on educational opportunities at SECF conferences and regional meetings,” she said. “I wanted to improve my abilities as a leader and build connections across the philanthropic sector.”

The Hull experience, Margy says, has given her a much deeper understanding of philanthropy’s work and how it can be most effective in a community like Warrenton and the three-county region the PATH Foundation serves. 

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Hull Fellows Highlight: Sarah McBroom

Author: Southeastern Council of Foundations


Sarah McBroom holds a title showing up with increasing frequency across Southern philanthropy: equity officer.

In that role, she provides leadership for the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation’s efforts to pursue economic, educational, social, ethnic, and racial equity for everyone in Arkansas. But to help others effectively, Sarah knew she needed to develop herself as well – thankfully, she knew exactly where to go: SECF’s Hull Fellows program.

“I was excited about the opportunity to connect with leaders across the southeastern states to build relationships in the hopes of building a better future,” she said. “I am passionate about building an inclusive, prosperous, and equitable American South. I believe philanthropy has a powerful role to play in that movement, but it will require us to learn, grow, and reimagine together as a sector.”

Sarah’s learning journey over the past year has been aided by her Hull mentor: Christine Reeves Strigaro, executive director of The Sapelo Foundation. Both have brought to their jobs a significant focus on equity, particularly in rural communities.

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Public Policy Update - January 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


SECF’s Response to the Attack on Democracy

Last week, SECF President & CEO Janine Lee, joined by Board Chair Regan Gruber Moffitt and Equity Chair Robert Dortch, issued a response to the January 6 attack on the Capitol and attempts to overturn the results of the presidential election. 

Describing this moment as another call to action for philanthropy, they call on SECF members to “recommit to the belief that a strong America is synonymous with a strong participatory democracy.” You can read the full response on our blog, Engage.

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What New Leadership in Washington Means for Philanthropy

Tomorrow will bring not only the inauguration of Joe Biden as president, but also a major power shift in the U.S. Senate, as Georgia’s new Democratic senators, Jon Ossoff and Rev. Raphael Warnock, will be sworn in following their victories in the January 5 runoff elections. 

With Kamala Harris becoming vice president – and her Senate seat being filled by an appointed Democrat – control of the Senate will officially shift to the Democrats by the slimmest possible margin. Each party will have 50 senators, with Harris serving as the tie-breaking vote.

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Picking Up the Pieces: Our Reaction to the Assault on American Democracy

Category: Reflections, 
Author: Janine Lee, Regan Gruber Moffitt and Robert Dortch


Over the past week, we have seen images that will be forever seared into our minds: an armed mob laying siege to the heart of America’s government; a lone Capitol Police officer successfully defending the Senate chamber against armed insurrectionists; other officers being beaten and crushed; lawmakers in the House chamber, fearful for their own safety.

The horrific events that enveloped the Capitol last week were unprecedented – but we cannot say they were unexpected. They were the culmination of dangerous trends, decades in the making, that have sought to divide us while providing a space for disinformation to take hold. Too many political leaders, instead of trying to reverse these trends, have unfortunately sought to exploit them – this time, in an effort to overturn the results of a free and fair election.

These actions brought into the halls of Congress people whose ideas run counter to the principles our country aspires to uphold. While some of our nation’s greatest social movements have fought for equal justice under the law, inclusiveness and equity, the insurrection at the Capitol was led by groups that promote hatred based on race, religion, ethnicity or ideology.

We were glad to see that, despite this warrantless attack, Congress succeeded in doing its duty, affirming Joe Biden as President-Elect and Kamala Harris as Vice President-Elect. We look forward to working with their administration and lawmakers at all levels of government, in both parties, as we work toward building a society that rejects bigotry and disinformation and, instead, embraces equity and objective truth.

The work of rebuilding democracy cannot be left exclusively to elected officials in Washington and elsewhere. This moment, like the COVID-19 pandemic and the fight for racial justice, is another call to action for philanthropy. No other sector of society enjoys the combination of social, moral, intellectual, reputational and financial capital that is prevalent in the charitable sector. We are obligated to do all we can to reverse the forces that brought us to this point. We must recommit to the belief that a strong America is synonymous with a strong participatory democracy.

This task will not be easy, and the solutions are not obvious. But we strongly believe they begin at the community level. We must rebuild trust – in each other, and in major institutions. We must revive meaningful dialogue that embraces difference, encourages peaceful dissent and seeks to win hearts and minds instead of defeating them. 

Philanthropy, particularly in the South, is deeply rooted in community – this is why we are confident that philanthropy not only must help lead the way forward, but also is up to the challenge.

Janine Lee is president and CEO of the Southeastern Council of Foundations. Regan Gruber Moffitt is Chair of the SECF Board of Trustees and Chief Strategy Officer of the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation. Robert Dortch is Chair of SECF's Equity Committee and Vice President, Programs & Innovation, at the Robins Foundation.

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Hull Fellows Highlight: Kendra Jones

Author: Southeastern Council of Foundations


Over the past year, Richmond, Virginia, has been a hub of philanthropic activity and innovation thanks largely to the work and partnership of three SECF members: the Community Foundation for a greater Richmond, the Robins Foundation and the Richmond Memorial Health Foundation (RMHF).

In Richmond and elsewhere, the impact COVID-19 pandemic has not landed evenly. Communities of color have disproportionately paid the health and economic costs of the crisis – an issue of chief concern to Kendra Jones, RMHF’s director for health equity, arts and culture.

“We know that the people we serve have incredible power, lived experiences that we can learn from and they persevere despite the system that was created to oppress them,” Kendra said. “However, they need resources – and we share our resources with them by the means of financial, intellectual and social capital.”

As director of the foundation’s Health Equity and Arts (HEArts) program, Kendra has helped offer community members opportunities for creative expression that help people be heard, bridge divides and collaborate on solutions to inequity.

“Communities have been able to advocate for criminal justice reform, neighborhood and pedestrian safety, to destigmatize mental illness, and so many other issues that affect their ability to achieve health equity,” she said.

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Southeastern Council of Foundations
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Visiting SECF:
All staff are working remotely at this time but can still be reached via email and by calling (404) 524-0911.

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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.