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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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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The Child Care Crisis Spares No Southern State

Author: Elliot Haspel


It has been a particularly rough few years for parents with young children, as the COVID-19 pandemic induced school and child care closures. Now that schools and child care programs are largely reopened, parents face a knock-on crisis: a crippling staffing shortage that is shearing an already-scarce child care supply. This child care crisis impacts every Southern state, and philanthropy must act to address it.

The overall child care crisis is caused by structural failure in the economic model. Because America treats child care more like a restaurant than a social good like a public school or library, programs are dependent on parent fees. Yet unlike a restaurant, the fixed costs in child care are so high due to necessarily low child-to-adult ratios – so although the price tag is staggering, programs cannot charge parents the true cost of care. Programs respond to this market failure the only way they can: by cutting educator wages. In 2020, the median wage was slightly above $12 an hour.

This reality left the child care sector barely treading water before the pandemic, but in the face of major retail and fast food companies significantly raising their base compensation, child care programs cannot keep up. As a result, although the overall U.S. economy has recovered to within 2 percent of pre-pandemic staffing levels, the child care sector is languishing more than 12 percent below, a loss of over 100,000 jobs. This is not a pandemic artifact, but the new normal.

Southern states are struggling as much as anyone. A robust study of Louisiana child care programs over the summer of 2021 found that, “84% of site leaders reported asking staff to work more hours or take on additional roles to make up for staffing shortages. Three-quarters worried that staffing issues negatively affected children at their site. Almost half indicated that they served fewer children or turned away families due to staffing challenges, and nearly two-thirds indicated they currently had a waitlist.” The story is similar in Virginia, where “almost all leaders (92%) found staffing their site difficult” and over half reported “losing valuable teachers.”

This rampant turnover creates immense stress on educators and site directors (a workforce heavily made up of women of color). It also stands in opposition to healthy child development; children thrive on caregiver reliability and consistency. In the worst-case scenarios, programs must close permanently because they simply cannot remain staffed at a level that allows for sustainable operations. State data shows that, for instance, Jefferson County (Louisville), Kentucky has lost nearly 10 percent of its child care supply since the start of the pandemic.

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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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Data Sharing Made Easy

Author: Erin Baird


If there was something easy that you could do to improve the quality and availability of grant data for your region, would you do it? Well, there is. You can become an eReporter with Candid and share your giving data with grantees, other funders, and the public. This data is fed into resources such as the Southern Trends Report, Candid’s many pop-up resource pages, and interactive platforms such as Foundation Maps, which visually displays over 22 million grants from over 158,000 foundations mapped by geographic location. 

Allegany Franciscan Ministries has been an eReporter since 2013. The process is easy. Candid has a template of the information they are looking for. This includes fields like organization name, recipient address, project description and grant amount. At Allegany, we use a report template Foundant created for us specifically for eReporting. Twice a year, we simply adjust the reporting dates, run the report and review it prior to sharing the information with Candid. It’s that easy.

As a benefit of sharing our grant data, we receive free access to our organization’s foundation map. Our updated foundation map helps grantseekers and other funders learn about our work. Take a look at ours here. We share our map on our website and use this tool to communicate how we are meeting our mission of being a compassionate and transforming, healing presence within our communities. If you are interested in sharing your work with the broader philanthropic community, consider being an eReporter for Candid.

Learn more about sharing your grants data by visiting the SECF website here. For details on how eReporting works, see this new how-to-guide from Candid. 

Already an eReporter? Be sure to submit your FY2020 grants data by June 30!

Erin Baird is director of grants at Allegany Franciscan Ministries.

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Supporting Communities Affected by Hurricane Laura

Author: Southeastern Council of Foundations


At least six people are dead following the devastation of Hurricane Laura, which made landfall early Thursday near Lake Charles, Louisiana, as a powerful Category 4 storm.

Officials on the ground are just beginning to assess damage from the storm, which, while weakened, has also brought significant rainfall to the rest of Louisiana and Arkansas. According to the Center for Disaster Philanthropy, “areas hit by Laura include regions of the continental U.S. that have some of the counties/parishes with the lowest median income in the country. These areas are highly dependent on subsistence work, manufacturing, oil and gas, and other industries that can be deeply affected by hurricane-related disruptions. They also have some of the lowest road and public transportation densities in the U.S.”

Philanthropy has a critical role to play in natural disaster recovery, particularly once initial relief efforts by government and organizations like the Red Cross have run their course. Two community foundations in the area have set up funds that are taking donations – money raised for these funds will go toward long-term relief and recovery:

Other community foundations in areas affected by the storm include: 

Finally, the Center for Disaster Philanthropy has an Atlantic Hurricane Season Recovery Fund that has been created to help focus on the greatest areas of need for the recovery process.

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Helping the Formerly Incarcerated Integrate Into the Community – and Stay Out of Prison

Author: Tristi Charpentier


For years, Louisiana incarcerated more people per capita than anywhere in the world. At an annual rate of more than $17,000 per inmate, incarceration costs Louisiana taxpayers almost $700 million each year,1 and nearly 36 percent of formerly incarcerated persons return to prison within three years of their exits.2

Since 2004, the Huey and Angelina Wilson Foundation has funded programs to reduce the barriers hindering the successful return of individuals to communities in Louisiana. While it may be easy to forget people behind bars, 95 percent of those imprisoned will return to our communities.3 Recidivism – the subsequent commission of a crime and reincarceration – affects every member of the community.

In 2015, the foundation embarked on a journey to become more strategic in its prison re-entry work. We recognized that in order to achieve a large-scale reduction in recidivism rates, it would be insufficient for the foundation to continue to provide small, direct-service grants. The foundation partnered with The Rensselaerville Institute to develop a Strategic Results Framework with two goals in mind: to become an investor in outcomes rather than a funder of activities, and to create an initiative focused on supporting the success of returning citizens. These two ideas came together in the form of the three-year, $3 million Prison Reentry Initiative. 

One of the keys to the Initiative was a shift in the foundation’s decision-making approach: from funding of activities to investing in results. Applications for the Initiative were evaluated from the perspective of an investor answering three critical questions:

  • What results are being proposed?
  • How likely is it that this group can achieve the proposed results?
  • Is this the best possible use of foundation funds?

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Responding to COVID-19 in... Hartsville, South Carolina



This post continues 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

Even though small towns are often just as vulnerable to the health and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, they also lack many of the tools and resources available in larger communities to help with response, relief and recovery.

Place-based philanthropy has a vital role to play in situations like these. One example comes from Hartsville, South Carolina, where the Byerly Foundation has emerged as a key player in the community’s response.

Hartsville, a city with a population of less than 8,000 in the northeast corner of the state, hasn’t been among a number of rural communities in the region to emerge as “hot spots” for the pandemic. However, it is still vulnerable to the considerable effects of school and business closures.

“All of us have been responding the various issues of the pandemic since the beginning of March. Hartsville, like everywhere else, ended up with more questions about what might be happening than specific issues that could be attacked,” said Richard Puffer, the Byerly Foundation’s executive director. “It became apparent to our city officials very early that this pandemic was going to have impacts that were never anticipated.”

Puffer and the foundation’s Board were eager to support the community it has called home since it was established in the 1990s. Thankfully, they were able to draw plenty of ideas and inspiration from the well-connected network of other South Carolina grantmakers responding to the pandemic.

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Tapping Into the Communities We Serve



Note: This post is an excerpt from an article posted last month at North Carolina State University's Philanthropy Journal and is published here with permission.

When I joined the Robins Foundation in 2014 – which aims to advance the greater Richmond community through strategic partnerships, collaborations and education – the role of director of inclusion and community impact didn’t exist. As the foundation became proactive in the region, our role evolved in responding to our partners’ needs.

In 2017, my position was created to address fairness and equitable access to quality resources. We have a strong interest in investing in programs that enrich whole families and whole neighborhoods, with a particular interest in children and their academic opportunities and success. We have three main principals – partnership, innovation and fairness. It became clear that to achieve this, we needed to take a more intentional approach toward equity and inclusion. One of the ways we do this is by embracing the idea that communities know what they need.

Here’s an example of how this has worked within our foundation. Each year, we hold a $500,000 Community Innovation Grant (CIG) competition. Organizations from all over the Richmond region apply for the grant and propose actionable solutions that have a meaningful and measurable impact. The proposals address complex issues that our region has been wrestling with for generations, including trauma-informed care, the school-to-prison pipeline, housing instability, education, workforce development and health.

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Philanthropy Responds to Hurricane Dorian

Category: Grantmaking, 
Author: Southeastern Council of Foundations


After battering the Bahamas earlier this week, Hurricane Dorian is now bearing down on the Southeastern coast, bringing dangerous rain, wind and storm surge flooding to the Carolinas. 

Current projections show the storm’s effects will be felt most strongly in South Carolina through Thursday night before moving up the coast to North Carolina and Virginia.

Already, several SECF members and partners have activated relief funds that will support recovery once Dorian passes. These include:

The Center for Disaster Philanthropy has already announced a webinar for funders interested in supporting recovery efforts in The Bahamas. We will notify SECF members of other programs as they are announced.

SECF is also ready to provide support to any members directly affected by the storm – please contact our offices at (404) 524-0911 to reach our staff.

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Youth Organizing Can Be a Powerful Strategy for Funders

Author: Eric Braxton


Part of the power of youth organizing is that it connects individual transformation to systemic change, and supporting youth-led change is an important grantmaking strategy. It brings together the right people with the right strategies to create social change and protects our other investments by cultivating a leadership pipeline for the future. From the Civil Rights Movement to current efforts for safe communities and just schools, young people from across the South have always been at the forefront of advocating for just and equitable communities. Building on this proud tradition, a new generation of Southern young people is leading efforts to advance health, justice, equity and dignity. At the same time, new research is showing that engaging young people in organizing to create lasting change in their communities is one of the best ways to support their development. Youth organizing efforts in the South have succeeded in achieving real change for their communities such as:

The Funders’ Collaborative on Youth Organizing (FCYO), in collaboration with Grantmakers for Southern Progress, The Highlander Research and Education Center, Project South, The Southeastern Council of Foundations, Southern Echo, Inc., Southern Vision Alliance and The United Way of Greater Atlanta is holding a funder briefing on June 4 from 10:00am to 5:00pm at the Loudermilk Conference Center in Atlanta, Georgia, to engage with youth leaders and local and national funders to discuss how to support young people as drivers of community change across the South. We urge funders across the region to join us.

Attendees can expect three takeaways from this interactive day:

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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.