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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2023 Salary Data for Southeast Grantmakers Now Available

Author: Philanthropy Southeast


Each year, Philanthropy Southeast partners with the Council on Foundations (COF) to produce salary benchmarking reports for foundation staff and CEOs in the Southeast. These reports include the average, median, minimum and maximum salaries for a range of 38 staff positions at all levels in foundations based in the 11 Southeast states and U.S. Caribbean territories. Salary tables are organized by both grantmaker type and asset size to provide quick access to benchmarking data for foundations of all shapes and sizes.

Salary information for 2023 is drawn from data on more than 10,000 full-time paid staff at nearly 1,000 grantmaking organizations. The South region accounted for approximately 26 percent of all respondents. We wish to thank all Philanthropy Southeast member organizations that responded to the 2023 Grantmaker Salary and Benefits Survey earlier this year, providing the valuable benchmarking data that informs these reports.

The 2023 salary tables for Southeast foundations are available exclusively to Philanthropy Southeast members under the For Members section of our website – or you can click this link to access them directly (login required). 

What did this year’s survey reveal? Here are some of the key findings:

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Community Foundation Survey on Endowment Building Cohort

Author: Philanthropy Southeast


Unrestricted Endowment building continues to be a topic of interest for community foundations. Ralph Serpe, President and CEO, Adams County Community Foundation was the featured speaker for June's meeting of Philanthropy Southeast's Community Foundations Committee. Ralph shared "The Secrets to Building Unrestricted Endowments" and members came away with a wealth of information and an eagerness to learn more.

We are pleased to announce that Ralph Serpe has agreed to facilitate a 10-month Community Foundation Endowment Building Cohort for Philanthropy Southeast members. The Cohort will be an interactive peer group for a maximum of 14 and minimum of seven participants per group.

Please complete the survey linked below to learn more about the cohort offering and to share your interest.




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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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Leading with Courage Spotlight: Increased Political Polarization

Author: Scott Westcott


This post is the first in a series that continues to explore the themes and ideas in our report, Leading with Courage: Reshaping Southern Philanthropy for New Era.

The 2024 presidential election is still 18 months away, but already the temperature is rising.

With a potential rematch looming between President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump, America’s deep political divide will be on full display for the foreseeable future.

The implications of growing political polarization on Southern philanthropy, and the communities it serves, was one of the emerging trends highlighted in Leading with Courage, a recently released report by Philanthropy Southeast.

Polarization touches nearly every aspect of American society – and it is increasingly affecting the work of philanthropic organizations. Polarization has challenged foundations on how to frame and execute on equity initiatives, in some instances leading to a chilling effect on equity training programs that had gained momentum in the wake of the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer in May 2020.

Molly Talbot-Metz, president of the Mary Black Foundation in Spartanburg, South Carolina, notes that nearly every aspect of the health foundation’s work – advocating for preventative practices related to the pandemic, Medicaid expansion or access to contraception – has increasingly been viewed through a political lens.

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2023 Grantmaker Salary and Benefits Survey is now open!

Author: Philanthropy Southeast


The 2023 Grantmaker Salary and Benefits Survey is open to participants now through May. Since 1980, the annual Grantmaker Salary and Benefits (GSB) Survey has provided the philanthropic sector with the most comprehensive data on foundation staff and board compensation. Grantmakers rely on this annual report to inform budgeting, talent recruitment, retention strategies, and personnel policies and practices.

Your participation in the GSB survey is needed—the greater the participation, the greater the insights for the sector and for your fellow Philanthropy Southeast members. Through a partnership with the Council on Foundations (COF), Philanthropy Southeast provides custom salary tables for grantmakers from our region each fall (typically early October).

What are the benefits for participating organizations?

All survey participants (both COF members and non-members) will receive:

  • Free access to the GSB Report
  • Early access to the report’s data tables
  • Access to create custom benchmark reports

Reports and data are expected to be released in fall 2023.

How can your foundation participate?

Visit the COF website to learn more and for detailed instructions on how to complete the survey.

First time completing the GSB survey?

See this page for answers to frequently asked questions as well as a list of documents you’ll need to complete the survey. The Grantmaker Salary and Benefits Survey lives in Benchmark Central. If you have never participated in a GSB Survey, email your first and last name, title, and email  address to in order to obtain a Benchmark Central account. 

The deadline to complete this year’s GSB survey will be May 16, 2023. Thank you in advance for your participation!

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Now Available: 2022 Salary Data for Southeast Grantmakers

Author: Philanthropy Southeast


Each year, Philanthropy Southeast partners with the Council on Foundations (COF) to produce salary benchmarking reports for foundation staff and CEOs in the Southeast. These reports include the average, median, minimum and maximum salaries for a range of 36 staff positions at all levels in foundations based in the 11 Southeast states and U.S. Caribbean territories. Salary tables are organized by both grantmaker type and asset size to provide quick access to benchmarking data for foundations of all shapes and sizes.

Salary information for 2022 is drawn from data on more than 10,000 full-time paid staff at over 1,000 grantmaking organizations. The South region accounted for approximately 27 percent of all respondents.

Thank you to all the Philanthropy Southeast member organizations that responded to the 2022 Grantmaker Salary and Benefits Survey earlier this year, providing the valuable benchmarking data that informs these reports.

The 2022 salary tables for Southeast foundations are available exclusively to Philanthropy Southeast members under the For Members section of our web site – you can click this link to access them directly (login required). 

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Program Officers: Foundations’ Cultural and Strategic Messengers

Author: Allen Smart


The foundation program officer has always had a difficult role. Part gatekeeper, part bureaucracy manager, part cheerleader – and now increasingly responsible for building collaboratives, promoting equity and engendering trust. 

At their best, they can hold all these skills concurrently. At their least effective, they gravitate to one competency over all others and muddle through their tasks without meeting the demands of their internal or external stakeholders. The result: program officers that aren’t providing value to their grantees, communities or foundation leadership. They are too often just getting by.

The evolution of the program officer role has followed similar shifts in private philanthropy. Beginning as bank trust officers in the early days of philanthropy and growing to influential issue experts and movement leaders in the 60s and 70s. The 80s and 90s saw the explosion of foundation staffing, process and layers of decision making. Many program officers became primarily process navigators. 

When I (with my colleagues) coined the term “Program Officer of the 21st Century” for a Southeastern Council of Foundations (now Philanthropy Southeast) conference presentation a few years back, the branding was meant to reflect the need to move program officers to a more community-engaged listening and facilitative model, in an effort to diminish the inherent power dynamics in the funder-nonprofit relationship. The change also tasked the program officer with responsibilities that extended far past grantmaking — to using the social and facilitative capital of foundations. This switch from steward to activator was, and still isn’t easy, for many. The challenge is how to best support this more active and nuanced role?

For decades, philanthropy supporting organizations, sometimes described as foundation affinity groups, have organized various trainings under such titles as Foundations 101 and the Art and Science of Grantmaking – brief general exposure curriculum meant to give those new to foundations a common language. Concurrently, there developed a series of leadership and peer support programs for those younger in their career; those in specific operational roles or those from specific demographic backgrounds, as examples. What didn’t develop, however, was any training or support for the evolving role of the program officer. Nothing to respond to the basic questions of “How Can I Be Good at My Job” or “What does a Successful Program Officer Look Like and How to Get There”? 

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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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What's New at the SECF Lending Library

Author: Stephen Sherman


By Stephen Sherman

We’ve recently expanded our Lending Library to include the titles below and much more. SECF members have exclusive access to our virtual collection offering e-books and audiobooks on best practices in philanthropy, advancing equity, and social sector leadership. Visit our website to get started today! 


Read Up On Our Annual Meeting Speakers

Get ready for the SECF 52nd Annual Meeting with these titles by our opening and closing keynote speakers, Wes Moore and Heather McGhee. 








The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore

In December 2000, the Baltimore Sun ran a small piece about Wes Moore, a local student who had just received a Rhodes Scholarship. The same paper also ran a series of articles about four young men who had allegedly killed a police officer in a spectacularly botched armed robbery. The police were still hunting for two of the suspects who had gone on the lam, a pair of brothers. One was named Wes Moore. Wes just couldn’t shake off the unsettling coincidence, or the inkling that the two shared much more than space in the same newspaper. After following the story of the robbery, the manhunt, and the trial to its conclusion, he wrote a letter to the other Wes, now a convicted murderer serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole. His letter tentatively asked the questions that had been haunting him: Who are you? How did this happen?


The Work: Searching for a Life that Matters by Wes Moore

The Work is the story of how one young man traced a path through the world to find his life’s purpose. Wes Moore graduated from a difficult childhood in the Bronx and Baltimore to an adult life that would find him at some of the most critical moments in our recent history: as a combat officer in Afghanistan; a White House fellow in a time of wars abroad and disasters at home; and a Wall Street banker during the financial crisis. In this insightful book, Moore shares the lessons he learned from people he met along the way – from the brave Afghan translator who taught him to find his fight, to the resilient young students in Katrina-ravaged Mississippi who showed him the true meaning of grit, to his late grandfather, who taught him to find grace in service.


The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together by Heather McGhee

Heather McGhee’s specialty is the American economy – and the mystery of why it so often fails the American public. From the financial crisis to rising student debt to collapsing public infrastructure, she found a common root problem: racism. But not just in the most obvious indignities for people of color. Racism has costs for white people, too. It is the common denominator of our most vexing public problems, the core dysfunction of our democracy and constitutive of the spiritual and moral crises that grip us all. But how did this happen? And is there a way out? McGhee embarks on a deeply personal journey across the country from Maine to Mississippi to California, tallying what we lose when we buy into the zero-sum paradigm – the idea that progress for some of us must come at the expense of others.


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Share Your Grants Data to Show Philanthropy’s Response to 2020

Author: Southeastern Council of Foundations


As a partner on the Get on the Map campaign, SECF works with Candid to promote data sharing in the philanthropic sector. Last month, Candid launched its annual data collection campaign, and we invite our members to join this effort by sharing grants data through Candid’s eReporting program.

By joining the eReporting campaign, your organization will help inform resources like SECF’s Southern Trends Report and interactive tools like Candid’s Foundation Maps. These resources are used daily by your peers to assess gaps in funding, seek out potential partners, and determine where and how to target their investments. 

Your participation is also critical to ensuring that researchers, sector leaders, policymakers, and others have a clear picture of Southern philanthropy’s response to events in 2020. Last year, Candid launched two new data portals tracking philanthropy’s efforts in responding to COVID-19 and grantmaking to promote racial equity, both of which rely heavily on data shared directly by funders. Candid’s data is also regularly cited in research in the field, including recent reports from the Center for Disaster Philanthropy, the Schott Foundation for Public Education, and Media Impact Funders. We need your help to provide the most current and accurate data on foundation grantmaking for resources like these. 

If your organization is already an eReporting partner, thank you! You should have received instructions from Candid for reporting FY20 and FY21 data. Please remember to share your data by June 30, 2021

If your organization is new to eReporting, it’s easy to share your grants data. You can follow the instructions on this page, or simply email your grants data to For those who have never shared grants data before, we recommend using the “Simplified Template” available here. If you have questions, please feel free to email

As an added benefit, organizations that participate in eReporting receive an interactive map that visualizes their foundation’s grantmaking (see a sample here). Grants data is also incorporated into our regional giving map, available exclusively to SECF members. 

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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.