Philanthropy Southeast's Blog

Engage, Philanthropy Southeast's blog, is a space for 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 Philanthropy Southeast events and programs.

Do you have a story or insight you’d like to share with our members on Engage? Contact David Miller, vice president of strategic communications, at or at (404) 524-0911 to discuss your idea.


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An Offer, a Request, an Opportunity and an Invitation from The Kendeda Fund

Author: Dena Kimball


As Kendeda prepares for our December 2023 spend-out after nearly 30-years and over $1 billion in grantmaking, we wanted to share a few invitations to our Southeast foundation partners, from whom we have learned so much.

First, an offer and a request. As Kendeda enters its final months of operations we hope to communicate a few final insights with peers and allies before we say goodbye. This will take the form of a handful of emails (8 or fewer between now and year end) directing you to resources, stories, insights, and lessons learned through the work we all care about and have often done in partnership. Mindful that not everyone may care to hear from us, even in this time-limited way, we are inviting you to opt-in. Once our sunset is complete, you won't receive any more emails from us. We promise! To sign up, just click here and share your email. It’s that easy!

Second, a learning opportunity. For those who may be interested, our partners at the National Center for Family Philanthropy are hosting a webinar on September 21 titled: “Is Spending Down Right for Your Philanthropy? How to Make the Decision and What to Consider in the Process.” As a foundation moving through this process, we are excited to take part in this timely conversation, and we encourage others who are interested to sign up soon!  

Third, an invitation.  For those attending Philanthropy Southeast’s Annual Meeting in Montgomery, Kendeda will be holding a farewell reception on the evening of Thursday, November 9.  Annual Meeting attendees can RSVP for this event as part of their event registration.

We appreciate you and your work!

Dena Kimball is executive director of The Kendeda Fund.

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Reaching Out for Rural Health: The Story Behind the Healthcare Georgia Foundation's Two Georgias Initiative

Author: Scott Westcott



This year's Annual Meeting was going to feature the presentation of the 2022 Truist Promise Award to the Healthcare Georgia Foundation for its Two Georgias Initiative, a five-year effort to address health inequities in rural Georgia. Due to the meeting's cancellation, our award presentation could not take place. However, we still want to put a spotlight on this incredible work – below is the article about the Two Georgias Initiative that will run in the upcoming issue of our Inspiration magazine, arriving in late December or early January. Congratulations to the Healthcare Georgia Foundation for its inspiring work!

Foundations face daunting challenges when they attempt to improve the health of people living in rural communities.

Communities located far from metro areas often lack ready access to medical care. Many are virtual food deserts and are chronically short on resources and funding for schools, libraries, social services and transportation options.

Healthcare Georgia Foundation in Atlanta identified these challenges and took them head on – in a big and bold way.

In 2017, the foundation launched the Two Georgias Initiative, an ambitious five-year project to identify and address systemic inequities that, in essence, had created two Georgias divided between better- resourced metro areas and often-forgotten rural communities.

The initiative focused on delivering funding and robust resources to support 11 rural Georgia coalitions to address the most vexing challenges within their communities, ranging from the opioid crisis and high incidence of diabetes, to establishing literacy and education efforts and pursuing economic development initiatives.

Now formally concluded, the initiative produced physical results in the form of new health clinics, food banks, basketball courts, fitness trails, and satellite libraries as well as innovative programming to encourage greater health literacy, educational achievement and effective drug and alcohol rehabilitation.

Woven throughout was an emphasis on building a greater awareness and understanding of equity and how long- standing systemic challenges have often further held rural communities back.

Adding to the challenge was the fact that the foundation’s efforts to address rural health equity came at a time of intense change and challenge – a period that included the reckoning on racial justice sparked by the murder of George Floyd and the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Equity was the north star throughout the Initiative,” said Lisa Medellin, Healthcare Georgia Foundation’s director of programs. “Often, programming similar to this can have equity as a side issue or as an extension. We put equity at the center and really leaned in on that – and I think that was hugely beneficial to the communities for their growth on their equity journey.”

In recognition of this groundbreaking work, Philanthropy Southeast recently named Healthcare Georgia Foundation as the winner of the Truist Promise Award. The award, Philanthropy Southeast’s top annual honor, recognizes an initiative or innovative grantmaking strategy or approach that is focused on significant and systemic issues facing the region and the country.


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Responding to COVID-19 in... Hilton Head, South Carolina

Author: David Miller


This post is the first in a series highlighting the responses of SECF members to the COVID-19 pandemic in their communities. We will use this series to highlight partnerships, coalitions and innovative examples of giving that help those affected by this crisis. If you are involved in a program you would like to see highlighted here, contact David Miller, director of marketing and communications, at


The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic are being felt everywhere in the Southeast. But few communities are more vulnerable to its immediate economic impact than Hilton Head Island and nearby Bluffton in South Carolina.

The area’s economy is highly dependent on tourism and hospitality. The wave of closures and stay-at-home orders caused by the outbreak hit right before the spring travel season, including Spring Break, got underway. 

“Tourism and hospitality are the backbone of the local economy so almost overnight, a large percentage of the working community found themselves without a stable income,” says Katherine Louw, executive director of the Watterson Family Foundation. “This community knows how to rebuild after a hurricane, but this proverbial storm is different because hit at the start of our regular tourist season, and there is no clear end in sight.”

With scores of locally-owned businesses and their workers facing a dire situation, a group of foundations have acted quickly to establish Help4Hope, a program that supports both groups at once.

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HHS' Administration for Children and Families Is Ready to Partner with Southern Funders

Category: Collaboration, 
Author: Carlis V. Williams


This year, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Administration for Children and Families (ACF) is reaching out - we want to understand the work done by Southern foundations and explore areas of shared concern where collaboration is possible.

As ACF's regional administrator for the Southeast, known as Region IV, I see opportunity to work with foundations in the region in several areas, including welfare-to-work, adoption, human trafficking, fatherhood and healthy marriages. We're looking for opportunities to share and exchange perspectives and viewpoints with those interested in, or already actively working on, these priorities and others. In addition, ACF is eager to share our expertise relating to grant funding activity as well as research, evaluation and measurement.

ACF's mission is to promote the economic and social well-being of America's most vulnerable populations and communities. Our programs serve a wide variety of groups and aim to foster:

  • families and individuals empowered to increase their own economic independence and productivity;
  • strong, healthy, and supportive communities that have a positive impact on the quality of life and the development of children;
  • partnerships that enable solutions which transcend traditional agency boundaries; and services planned, reformed, and integrated to improve needed access.

In addition to the above, ACF's programs also aim to foster a strong commitment to working with low-income people, refugees, and migrants to address their needs, strengths, and abilities. This includes my personal commitment to increase engagement and strengthen combined public/private impact through partnership work with the Southeast's philanthropic community.

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Improving the Lives of Older Tennesseans Through the Power of Collective Advocacy and Public-Private Partnerships

Category: Collaboration, 
Author: Scott Perry


A unique example of a statewide private-public partnership is part on an ongoing story which should affect Tennessee for years to come.

As a result of two court settlements, $36 million in funding is being granted to six different organizations in Tennessee for the purposes of implementing statewide initiatives designed to make lives better for older residents. Working with the court, five philanthropic organizations – the West End Home Foundation (Nashville), United Way of Greater Knoxville, Memorial Foundation (Hendersonville), HCA Foundation (Nashville), and Assisi Foundation (Memphis) – provided their expertise to develop a process to accept, then carefully vet, statewide proposals in four specific areas:

  • Senior Legal Assistance

  • Senior Affordable Housing

  • Senior Transportation

  • Senior Dental

These areas were selected based on statewide need and a history of limited resources. Proposals were evaluated based on their level of innovation, ability to implement and sustainability. The process took almost two years to complete.

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Moving Forward – By Stepping Back to Our Beginning

Category: Collaboration, 
Author: Davette Swiney


This month, Central Kentucky Community Foundation in Elizabethtown, Kentucky, and Elizabethtown Community and Technical College announced a new strategic partnership. The partnership, intending to strengthen both organizations and ultimately the community, is a throwback to the birth of both organizations.

In the late 1950s, one local man, Jim Collier, rallied a few community champions to help him launch an effort to bring higher education to our region. In 1960, their work resulted in the formation of the North Central Education Foundation (NCEF). The foundation raised local money and worked with state and local officials to draft and eventually pass legislation to form the community college system in Kentucky.

NCEF raised money and purchased 227 acres for Elizabethtown Community College and, when state funding fell short, even provided the money needed to finish initial construction so the college’s first class could begin school in 1964. At the same time, NCEF also raised money for scholarships so students would be able to attend the local college.

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Coming Together to Listen for Good

Category: Collaboration, 
Author: Tara Weese


In the words of Helen Keller, “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” When it comes to Spartanburg, collaboration is a key cornerstone to ensuring that we are maximizing resources and achieving maximum results. Some of these strategic partnerships expand well beyond the corners of our county, aligning with funding partners across the country.

The Listen for Good initiative is one such example of philanthropy innovatively coming together to create positive impact in communities across the United States. Housed at Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, the Fund for Shared Insight was created in 2014 through a collaboration of funders who had the desire to pool philanthropic dollars to make a greater impact. They developed Listen for Good, which is dedicated to building the practice of listening to the people organizations seek to help.

This past spring, The Spartanburg County Foundation was made aware of Listen for Good through an e-newsletter that was distributed by SECF. Upon learning more about this opportunity and its potential positive impact on a Spartanburg County nonprofit, Spartanburg County Foundation staff immediately reached out to our colleagues at the Mary Black Foundation to explore partnering together to nominate a local nonprofit for consideration.

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Bar Foundations: Partners in Philanthropy

Category: Collaboration, 
Author: Len Horton


Three years ago, the Georgia Bar Foundation (GBF) applied for and received a grant, funded by the Public Welfare Foundation, to expand our involvement in the local philanthropic community. The plan included partnering with SECF to raise awareness of bar foundations and their grantees, to promote greater understanding of the importance of civil indigent legal services, and to nurture relationships with other foundations. In essence, the grant supported a coming out party for the Georgia Bar Foundation among the many foundations that comprise Georgia’s philanthropic community.

SECF helped introduce us to its members so they would know who we are, who our grantees are and what we are trying to accomplish. SECF helped us create a webinar, “Funding Civil Legal Aid to Advance Your Grantmaking Goals” and an online tool kit, “Funding Civil Legal Aid,” that provides a way for state bar foundation members to spotlight their states statistically in great detail.

One of the outcomes of this initial grant was other foundations’ being more aware of the importance of access to justice in their states and the nation. Another important outcome was the realization of how sophisticated and knowledgeable our SECF membership is and how much I have learned, and still need to learn, from them. Perhaps the most important outcome, however, was the opportunity for bar foundations to discuss becoming partners with other foundations in attacking our mutual problems.

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Listening Our Way to More Effective Grantmaking

Category: Collaboration, 


Melinda Tuan

Listen for Good (L4G), the centerpiece of a fast-growing collaborative of foundations putting feedback on the front lines of effective grantmaking, is opening its ears even wider.

The program, sponsored by Fund for Shared Insight, has announced its second, national, open request for proposals, with plans to make more than $3.3 million in grants to 75 nonprofits dedicated to listening systematically to the people they seek to help.

The new money and focused attention on feedback comes as the field continues to evolve amid growing interest and greater recognition of the benefits of listening – and acting on what is heard. A recent study by the Center for Effective Philanthropy found that 99 percent of nonprofits collect feedback from the people they seek to help, using a variety of methods, including focus groups, surveys, and one-on-one conversations.

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Bringing a Little Heart & Soul to South Carolina

Category: Collaboration, 


In April 2016, I had the good fortune of being a part of the Aspen Institute's pre-conference for rural philanthropies at the Council of Foundation’s annual conference in Washington, D.C. As someone new to philanthropy, I came looking for place-based organizations who were using community indicators or other population-level data to measure impact. Having recently left the helm of South Carolina's early childhood agency, First Steps, I knew the value of trending data over time to measure the progress of our state against important benchmarks. 

Data brings partners together for action. Data illuminates needs and shapes policy in powerful ways. 

The J. Marion Sims Foundation, a health legacy foundation created by the sale of Lancaster's Elliott White Springs Memorial Hospital in 1995, had begun to think about new ways of measuring results. Just as important, the foundation was also re-doubling its commitment to collaborate with partners in nonprofit, public, and private sectors for greater community impact.

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Connecting with Philanthropy Southeast:
The Philanthropy Southeast staff works remotely – the best way to reach us is by email or by calling (404) 524-0911.

Monday-Thursday from 9:00am–6:00pm (ET)

On Fridays, staff work on a flexible schedule. Members can reach our team via email or by calling (404) 524-0911 between 9:00am and 6:00pm (ET). We will respond to all urgent and time-sensitive matters promptly.

Mailing address:
100 Peachtree Street NW, Suite 2080
Atlanta, GA 30303

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