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.

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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Submit Topics for the 52nd Annual Meeting -- Now Through February 15!

Category: Annual Meeting, 
Author: Southeastern Council of Foundations


After last year’s Annual Meeting, we opened the Call for Topics for the 52nd Annual Meeting, slated to come to Asheville, North Carolina, this November – thank you to everyone who has already submitted their ideas!

Today, we are reopening the Call for Topics for a few weeks, through February 15. Last year was difficult for everyone, but a new year provides a chance for inspiration and ideas – and we want to make sure these are reflected on the Annual Meeting agenda. 

We also cannot ignore the events of the past week and the implications for our democracy. We know many of our members are thinking about these issues, too, and want to make sure they’re discussed in Asheville.

Visit our Call for Topics now to make your submissions, as well as suggestions for keynote and plenary speakers. Our 2021 Session Design Committee, comprised of a diverse and representative group of SECF members, will use your input to design sessions, recruit speakers, and organize the 2021 Annual Meeting program. We may not be able to incorporate every suggestion, but you can be sure we’ll take all of your ideas seriously. 

Also keep in mind that once a topic is selected, the Session Design Team will lead the work of developing it into a session and may take your idea in a surprising direction!

If you have questions about the Call for Topics, or want to help plan the 2021 Annual Meeting, contact Quincy Kelly, SECF’s production consultant, at

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SECF Member Highlight: Kristen Keely-Dinger

Category: Member Highlight, 
Author: Southeastern Council of Foundations


This is the last in a series profiling the new members of SECF's Board of Trustees announced at the 51st Annual Meeting following a vote by SECF members.

Kristen Keely-Dinger was already intimately familiar with SECF and its staff by time she was approached to serve on the Board of Trustees – she was months into her service as chair of last year’s Annual Meeting.

In the midst of that experience, the decision to accept a nomination to the Board was an easy one, she said.

“After having the opportunity to work with the staff and the planning team at SECF for this year’s annual meeting and watching the flexibility and the adaptability of the staff, I felt confident that I could learn from and contribute to the organization in meaningful ways,” Kristen said. “I am also a big supporter of the Equity Framework that SECF has adopted and am excited to learn from my peers and the team at SECF as we continue to implement the framework throughout the organization.”

Equity has been on Kristen’s mind frequently in the past year. As the president and CEO of The Healing Trust, based in Nashville, she has helped lead a transformation in the foundation’s work – a transformation that accelerated in the wake of this summer’s racial justice protests.

“Almost all our grants now and going forward will be unrestricted. Our partners need to know we trust them, and we understand that they also need the same flexibility to respond to their changing environment,” she said. “The pandemic has both highlighted and exacerbated the needs of historically uninvested in and marginalized communities and has underscored the urgency of our work on equity.”

Kristen says her experience as a foundation CEO will also affect her work on the SECF Board.

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SECF Member Highlight: Deanna James

Category: Member Highlight, 
Author: Southeastern Council of Foundations


Every member of the SECF Board of Trustees brings a unique perspective to the table – as the saying goes, “if you’ve seen one foundation, you’ve seen one foundation.”

Still, it would be hard to argue that Deanna James brings a point of view all her own to the SECF Board, which she joined in December following approval by the SECF membership. After all, James leads a foundation that serves an island, St. Croix, that is part of the larger U.S. Virgin Islands territory.

“Territory” is how James politely describes the U.S. Virgin Islands. She prefers another word that better represents the amount of political power, or lack thereof, she and other St. Croix residents have.

“Hailing from a U.S. colony, my community's political status has relegated American citizens residing in the U.S. Virgin Islands to 'other' or 'less than', by law. I think that reality has uniquely heightened my awareness and sensibilities relative to systemic inequity everywhere,” she said. “I live inequity and exclusion.”

Of course, inequity and exclusion are conditions seen throughout the Southeastern region. That commonality is what drew James to SECF membership and, now, to agreeing to serve on the Board of Trustees.

“The opportunity to connect with and build capacity for philanthropic organizations serving underserved, under-resourced communities, particularly in the rural South, was irresistible,” she said.

Serving on the Board will allow James more opportunities than ever to connect with fellow SECF members, particularly fellow Trustees.

“My overarching goal is to learn from and to share with fellow directors and members,” she said. “I'm also intent on identifying and connecting with small place-based philanthropies that are possibly building innovative practice around how to do philanthropy differently – more intrinsically rooted in community.”

This year – not just the pandemic,  but also and extremely active Atlantic hurricane season – have emphasized for James the value of place-based philanthropy.

“Just as most rural communities have learned after every major natural disaster, the closer philanthropy is to the ground, the more effective and responsive it will be!” she said.

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Winter 2020 Issue of Inspiration Magazine Now Available!

Category: Member Benefits, 
Author: Southeastern Council of Foundations


SECF members have exclusive access to the Winter 2020 issue of our quarterly Inspiration magazine, now available for viewing and download at!

Here’s what you can read about in our latest issue:

  • The winners of the inaugural Truist Foundation Promise Award – the Charlottesville Area Community Foundation and the Coastal Community Foundation – that helped their communities in the wake of tragedy while examining themselves. Today, both are providing leadership in addressing inequity while responding to the COVID-19 crisis.
  • The story of the Greater High Point Food Alliance, a philanthropy-backed initiative that has built partnerships across multiple sectors – government, nonprofits, faith-based institutions and others – to combat food insecurity.
  • A recap of the 51st Annual Meeting, where SECF members didn’t let a lack of in-person events get in the way of connecting with one another while being educated and inspired by this year’s lineup of speakers and sessions.

This issue also includes insights from the newest members of the SECF Board of Trustees, as well as a year-end message from President & CEO Janine Lee!

You can view this issue and previous issues at the Inspiration page at (login required).

If you’re involved with a project you think should be highlighted in a future issue of Inspiration, contact David Miller, director of marketing and communications, at

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Member Highlight: Darrin Goss, Sr.

Category: Member Highlight, 
Author: Southeastern Council of Foundations


Over the next few weeks, we’ll be profiling the new members of SECF’s Board of Trustees announced at the 51st Annual Meeting following a vote by SECF members.

In less than five years under the leadership of Darrin Goss, Sr., the Coastal Community Foundation in Charleston, South Carolina, has emerged as one of Southern philanthropy’s leading advocates for advancing racial equity and for the adoption of Passing Gear principles focused on deploying multiple forms of capital to address the root causes of issues in the community.

The foundation’s work has earned national attention and praise – just this week, the foundation received a $1 million grant from Facebook to support Black communities and black-led organizations. At the 51stAnnual Meeting, the foundation’s Passing Gear work was recognized with the Truist Foundation Promise Award.

The SECF network stands to benefit even more from Goss’ leadership now that he has joined the Board of Trustees. But despite an impressive track record, Goss is beginning his new role ready to learn and listen.

“I want to learn as much as I can on how I can be effective in supporting the goals of SECF as an organization and how that can potentially shape the future of the Southeast,” he said. “I am relatively new to foundation philanthropy and so I have a lot to learn.”

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Public Policy Update - December 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


Expanded Charitable Deduction Could be Part of Year-End COVID Relief Bill

Renewed hopes for a COVID relief package in Congress have also improved the prospects of an expanded charitable deduction.

Prospects for legislation gained significant momentum last week after a bipartisan group of lawmakers revealed a $908 billion plan mostly comprised of extended unemployment benefits, aid for state and local governments and small business loans. The proposal quickly won support from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY).

The bill’s price tag places it between the $2.2 trillion package House Democrats passed earlier this year and a $500 billion package Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has called for in recent weeks. 

McConnell’s counterproposal, notably, would expand the temporary universal charitable deduction that was included in the CARES Act, which became law in the early weeks of the pandemic and established a $300 deduction for non-itemizers. That provision expires at the end of this year – McConnell’s latest proposal would establish a new universal charitable deduction of $600 for single filers and $1,200 for married couples filing jointly. 

Lawmakers are also staring down a December 11 deadline to prevent a government shutdown. Yesterday, McConnell said he expects to pass a one-week stopgap bill which would keep the government funded until December 18. That would give lawmakers negotiating a COVID relief bill an additional week to come to an agreement – the relief bill is widely expected to be attached to a year-end omnibus funding measure.

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Experience the 2020 Annual Meeting – Again, or for the First Time!

Category: Annual Meeting, 
Author: Southeastern Council of Foundations



This November, more than 400 philanthropic leaders from across the region and the nation gathered online for an event like no other: SECF’s 51st Annual Meeting.

Today, all SECF members can experience this unique event – recordings of sessions from this year’s Annual Meeting are now posted at the program archive!

This year’s Annual Meeting was the first in SECF’s history to be offered virtually, providing attendees the opportunity to interact with one another in real-time during a robust lineup of speakers and sessions, including keynotes from Harvard’s Dr. David Williams and ABFE President Susan Taylor Batten. Attendees also hear from Richard Rothstein, author of The Color of Law – recently announced as the newest selection for our Chair’s Book Club!

The Annual Meeting agenda drew on this year’s most pressing issues – public health, economic inequality and inequity, and the fight for racial justice – to explore a diverse set of topics relevant to grantmakers throughout the region, including place-based grantmaking, investment strategy, foundation culture, evaluation, mentorship and more!

Head to the Archived Programs page now to view all available recordings and other meeting materials. If you feel inspired after watching, take a few minutes to help shape next year’s meeting by answering our Call for Topics

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Hull Fellows Highlight: Alice Hall

Author: Southeastern Council of Foundations


The Betty and Davis Fitzgerald Foundation, a family foundation based in Atlanta, focuses part of its giving on education – a subject quite familiar to Alice Hall, one of the foundation’s newest trustees and a learning specialist at Atlanta’s Pace Academy.

For Alice, however, experience as an educator wasn’t enough. She wanted to expand her knowledge of philanthropy itself. For that, she turned to SECF’s Hull Fellows program.

“This program almost feels like getting a personalized degree in philanthropy, which was exactly what I needed to be a productive, impactful part of the Fitzgerald Foundation,” Alice said. “As a foundation board member who does not work professionally in the world of philanthropy, I wanted to be a part of the Hull Fellows program so that I could gain a deeper understanding of how philanthropy works.”

Alice says she’s gained exactly during her year in the program, which culminated earlier this week when she and a group of her Hull classmates gave a Capstone presentation on Inspiring the Next Generation of Philanthropy.

“Through the Hull Fellows program, I expanded my knowledge of philanthropy from only being familiar with a small family foundation in Atlanta to understanding how a wide variety of organizations function throughout the entire Southeast,” she said. “I was privileged to hear from speakers who are experts in the field, as well as have personal conversations with my fellow classmates, who are respected professionals at their foundations.”

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Southeastern Council of Foundations
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