Reading Between the Lines: Opportunity Zones

Editor’s Note: Sandra Swirski and her colleagues at the Washington, D.C., advocacy firm Urban Swirski & Associates offer regular analysis of public policy developments of interest to Southern grantmakers – reading between the lines so you don’t have to.

Tucked into the recently enacted Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 was a provision that may have slipped past you: the creation of Opportunity Zones. The Opportunity Zone provision, now drawing greater attention, creates a community economic development program that uses tax incentives to encourage long-term private investments in low-income communities nationwide. This week we’ll dig further into the new program and the potential upside and downside to you. 

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Achieving the Dream through Partnership

Vince Lombardi once said, “Individual commitment to a group effort – that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.” This is the mindset we must have in our efforts to improve postsecondary outcomes for underserved students. No one can succeed alone. Because the challenges are many and the resources limited, it is essential to look for every opportunity to partner.

One such partnership opportunity is coming to Mississippi for the first time, supported by a $900,000 grant from the Woodward Hines Education Foundation. Achieving the Dream (ATD) leads a growing network of community colleges committed to helping their students – particularly low-income students and students of color – achieve their goals for academic success, personal growth and economic opportunity. This fall, Coahoma Community College and Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College (MGCCC) will join more than 220 community colleges serving 4 million students across 40 states in the ATD network.

ATD offers data-driven coaching and training for community college leaders, tapping into national datasets and assessment tools to help colleges benchmark their performance over time. Through their participation in ATD over the four-year funding period, Coahoma and MGCCC will have access to these tools to help them set priorities within seven key capacity areas: Leadership & Vision, Data & Technology, Equity, Teaching & Learning, Engagement & Communication, Strategy & Planning, and Policies & Practices. ATD will coach each college on how to use their own data to inform their actions, from the programs they offer to the policies they enact.

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One Foundation, Three Perspectives on SECF's Essential Skills & Strategies

Editor’s Note: On January 31 – February 1 this year, three staff members from the Community Foundation of the Chattahoochee Valley (CFCV) attended SECF’s Essential Skills & Strategies for New Grantmakers in Atlanta. Each of them took the time to offer some thoughts on their experience.

A Few Lessons Learned
Anna Sims, Grants and Communication Associate

Oftentimes in life, the best way to learn is to just do it – to simply jump in and get to it! That’s a large part of how I’ve learned what I’ve learned as the grants and communication associate at the Community Foundation of the Chattahoochee Valley after nearly two years. Of course, I wouldn’t have it any other way, but in the hustle and bustle of our daily lives, we may have missed some key pieces to the puzzle.

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Reading Between the Lines: Congress' Big Budget Deal

Editor’s Note: Sandra Swirski and Sara Barba of the Washington, D.C., advocacy firm Urban Swirski & Associates offer regular analysis of public policy developments of interest to Southern grantmakers – reading between the lines so you don’t have to.

You may recall a few weeks ago we speculated about the three buckets of tax items, prompted by last year’s tax bill, that could be addressed this year. The timing and opportunities were unclear as of that writing, but a bipartisan budget deal this week made it a lot clearer. In this week’s column, we’ll dig into the recently introduced budget deal that includes 65 pages of tax provisions, which of these three buckets those tax provisions came from, and what it could mean for the rest of the year.

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Reading Between the Lines: President Trump's First State of the Union

Editor’s Note: Sandra Swirski and Sara Barba of the Washington, D.C., advocacy firm Urban Swirski & Associates offer regular analysis of public policy developments of interest to Southern grantmakers – reading between the lines so you don’t have to.

On Tuesday, January 30, President Trump delivered his first State of the Union address to Congress. Folks in D.C. waited with bated breath to see if the president would strike a unifying tone and stay on-script, and he did for the most part. This week, we’ll dig into the substance of and reaction to the SOTU, and how the priorities the president presented could involve foundations.

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SECF Accepting Applications for Program Associate

The SECF staff is expanding! We're looking for qualified candidates to fill a new Program Associate position. Whoever is selected to fill this role will provide timely, efficient and effective support for SECF's grantmaker education programs while also working with key sector partners to identify and execute strategic partnership opportunities.

This position is an excellent opportunity for someone looking to deepen their experience working with grantmakers, nonprofit organizations, or membership associations. The selected candidate will join an exceptionally responsive and thoughtful team that cares about supporting grantmakers as they strive for higher performance and better outcomes.

Some of the position's primary responsibilities include:

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Moving Forward - By Stepping Back to Our Beginning

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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Reading Between the Lines: More Tax Changes in 2018

Editor’s Note: Sandra Swirski and Sara Barba of the Washington, D.C., advocacy firm Urban Swirski & Associates offer regular analysis of public policy developments of interest to Southern grantmakers – reading between the lines so you don’t have to.

Republican lawmakers notched a much-needed win at the end of 2017 – a tax overhaul that had been in the works for many years. There was a quick feeling of relief among Republican lawmakers – who had failed to pass a repeal of the Affordable Care Act and still wanted a victory for President Trump’s first year in office – followed by a lot of speculation about the tax bill being rife with loopholes, omissions and mistakes.

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SECF Offices Closed Due to Inclement Weather

UPDATE: Our offices will remain closed on Thursday, January 18, due to unsafe road conditions in metro Atlanta. Staff will be available by cellphone and email. Stay safe and warm, everyone!

Due to weather conditions in the Atlanta area, the SECF offices will be closed on Wednesday, January 17. Winter weather, including snow and extremely cold wind chills, has resulted in a state of emergency declaration covering 83 counties in North and Central Georgia.

Staff remain available by email and cellphone to respond to member requests. We expect that our offices will reopen on Thursday, January 18.

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Exponent Philanthropy Resources for Small-Staff Foundations

Through a partnership between SECF, the United Philanthropy Forum and Exponent Philanthropy, members can take advantage of discounts on Exponent publications and programs. Keep reading to learn more about this SECF member benefit!

Exponent Philanthropy Publications

SECF members are eligible for a 20 percent discount on the following Exponent publications:

The Foundation Guidebook
This signature publication is written especially for newcomers to foundations or philanthropy. Gain the baseline knowledge to operate your foundation, including board responsibilities, tax and legal issues, administrative details, investment matters, grantmaking basics and more.

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SECF Offices Holiday Schedule

The SECF offices will be closed December 22 – 26 for a holiday break. Our offices will be open with limited staff on hand December 27 – 29, with normal operations resuming Tuesday, January 2.

We wish all of you a wonderful holiday season and look forward to working with you in 2018!

We're Looking for a New Director of Public Policy

Do you have a passion for public policy? Do you want to help foundations navigate the complexities of Congress and state legislatures in the Southeast? Are you eager to be part of a team dedicated to supporting Southeastern grantmakers as they strive for higher performance and better outcomes?

If you answered "yes!" to these questions, we want to hear from you. SECF is looking for a Director of Public Policy & Special Projects to join our staff. Some of the position's primary responsibilities include:

  • Monitor and analyze state and federal legislation and policy developments affecting grantmaking and the field of philanthropy
  • Research and develop positions on regulatory and legislative issues, in accordance with approved criteria, relevant to grantmakers and the broader nonprofit sector as necessary
  • Develop strong working relationships with public policy staff and leaders at other regional and national philanthropic support organizations
  • Create opportunities for SECF members to build relationships with legislators and elected officials at the federal, state and local levels
  • Organize an annual gathering of state and local grantmaker associations to help coordinate relevant policy messages or activities at the local level
  • Manage SECF’s legal offerings for members, including 2 – 4 webinars per year featuring experts on legal issues for foundations including changes to foundation regulations.

You can learn more about this position, and how to apply, by reading the full job posting at our Career Center. Applications are due Friday, January 12!

New Reports Highlight Growth of Donor-Advised Funds and Giving Circles

Even taking into account the Great Recession, we’ve generally seen the numbers, assets, and giving for private and community foundations in the United States continue to rise over the past decade. Over the long term, that growth has been steady and alludes to the staying power of foundations in spite of changing social, economic and political circumstances. However, while foundations have the capacity to make transformative grants in their respective communities, collectively they account for a relatively small share of charitable giving when compared with contributions from individual donors.

Donor-advised funds (DAFs) and giving circles lie somewhere in between foundations and individuals on the giving spectrum and are two of the fastest growing philanthropic vehicles. Two recent studies offer insight into the growth of these giving instruments in the United States.

The 2017 Donor-Advised Fund Report, published by the National Philanthropic Trust, surveys the growth of DAFs in the United States from 2010-2016 and provides an analysis of funds by sponsor type. Data was gathered from over 1,000 organizations that sponsor DAFs, including national charities, community foundations and single-issue charities. In 2016, there were approximately 285,000 individual donor-advised funds across the country – more than three times the number of private foundations. Nearly 44,000 DAFs are housed in organizations within SECF’s 11-state footprint, representing around 15 percent of all donor-advised funds in the country.

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International African American Museum in Charleston Attracts Support from Philanthropy

“Went down to the rocks to hide my face. The rocks cried out, no hiding place,” Elizabeth Alexander, Director of Creativity and Free Expression at the Ford Foundation, said, contemplating the African American biblical phrase at a recent event in support of the International African American Museum. She continued, “I don’t think that the ground on which we walk stays silent forever. I think that actually the ground has to speak, and now there is a moment where people are realizing that this is a story that needs to be narrated, needs to be spoken.”

The International African American Museum (IAAM) is being designed to give voice to the sacred land of Gadsden’s Wharf, and to the stories of the men, women and children whose lives are intrinsically tied to that hallowed ground. Nearly half of all enslaved Africans forced to America through the Transatlantic Slave Trade arrived in Charleston, and the vast majority disembarked at Gadsden’s Wharf, the future home of the IAAM and one of the most significant and sites of the African American experience in the Western hemisphere.

The museum, a $75 million project, is just $7 million away from reaching its fundraising goal, which it aims to accomplish by the end of 2017. With the funds secured, the museum will break ground in early 2018 and open in 2020. 

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Policy Alert: Protect the Charitable Deduction – Calls Needed to Senators Now!

Tax reform legislation is moving toward a floor vote this week in the Senate – that means we have only a few days to ensure the bill protects and promotes charitable giving!

Senate Republicans are working to get 50 votes in support of their bill, which means there are opportunities for changes to the legislation that will help your foundation and the nonprofits you support.

The current Senate bill does NOT preserve the full scope and value of the charitable deduction. However, Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) has introduced the Universal Charitable Giving Act, which would create a charitable deduction, with no caps, that would be available to all taxpayers, including non-itemizers. SECF supports this measure.

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Your Opinion Matters

Editor’s Note: MagnifyGood is a communications consultancy that magnifies the good of the social sector using strategic communications.

If you are attending SECF’s Annual Meeting in Orlando, you will have an opportunity to participate in an important step the organization is taking.  SECF has partnered with us to conduct research focusing on the benefits of SECF membership, both to you and to your foundation. Your input is vital to the success of the project and demonstrates your commitment to SECF.

The research process involves your input on statements that reflect perceived benefits of SECF. We hope you will take the time to review several statements about SECF membership and tell us how you feel about each one. Your participation is a way to support SECF while at the meeting and long term.

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Coming Together to Listen for Good

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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Look to Your Community Foundation in Times of Crisis

This post originally appeared on Exponent Philanthropy’s PhilanthroFiles blog.

Everyone wants to help during a crisis, and, for many, that means giving money. But few understand what it takes to distribute funds to the people, businesses, or nonprofits that will create the greatest impact and fulfill the most need—especially if the money lives in different funds at different organizations.

Enter community foundations, which are inherently good at sharing information and resources. In fact, they do it all the time. Community foundations exist to help others do more with less and find ways to strengthen a community through common resources, ingenuity, and communication.

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Reading Between the Lines: “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act 2017”

Editor’s Note: Sandra Swirski and Sara Barba of the Washington, D.C., advocacy firm Urban Swirski & Associates offer regular analysis of public policy developments of interest to Southern grantmakers – reading between the lines so you don’t have to.

Just today, the House Ways and Means Committee released their tax reform legislation, dubbed the “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.” Republican tax writers have been working for years on a tax overhaul, and it seems this year is their best chance to get something passed. In light of the recently concluded World Series, this week we’ll provide a Win-Loss assessment of key SECF priorities included in the bill, as well as highlight other provisions that the nonprofit sector has been watching.

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2017 Salary Data for Southeast Grantmakers Now Available

Stephen ShermanIn SECF’s 2016 market analysis, 43 percent of responding organizations stated that they anticipated adding new staff within the next 12 months and close to a third reported having replaced their executive director within the past three years.

With each new staff member, promotion, or position added, there are crucial decisions that have to be made regarding compensation. Not only do foundations want to remain competitive and attract the best talent, but they also have to show due diligence and demonstrate that staff and CEO compensation is, according to IRS guidelines, “reasonable and not excessive.” As a best practice, it is recommended that foundations and other charities review comparable salary and benefits data for other organizations with similar missions and of a similar budget or asset size.

Each year, SECF partners with the Council on Foundations (COF) to produce comparative analyses of salary data for foundation staff and CEOs in the Southeast. These reports are generated using COF’s Benchmarking Central tool that includes salary data for staff in multiple roles within foundations.

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