EngAGement Snapshot: SECF – Utilizing Technology to Inform and Connect

by Patti Johnson, Coordinator of SECF EngAGEment Initiative, Southeastern Council of Foundations

The Southeastern Council of Foundations joined the Grantmakers in Aging EngAGEment Initiative in the summer of 2010 with the goal of informing its members about issues related to aging. Because SECF’s geographic service area is larger than any other regional association’s (11 southeastern states in two time zones), we knew from the outset that ours would be a technology-intensive approach. It is difficult to host a luncheon or a day-long meeting that will attract significant participation when so much territory has to be traveled. Instead, we’ve concentrated our efforts on providing web-based, peer-to-peer learning, encouraging SECF members to share information about issues and programs related to aging that is of interest to them. Our approach is webinar-based, with support from an active online community within the SECF website, YouTube and Facebook.


Members whose foundations are supporting a program related to aging take turns “hosting” monthly webinars. During the one hour session, the foundation member explains why the program is of interest to his/her foundation, then a representative of the nonprofit talks about the accomplishments and challenges the program has experienced. The presentation is followed by Q&A. These webinars are held on the 3rd Wednesday of each month from 3:00 – 4:00 pm Eastern time (2:00-3:00pm Central). We record the webinars so that others may view them at SECF’s YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/secfvideos.

The interests of the members dictate the topics covered by the webinars. So far this year, we’ve heard presentations on:

  • the care of the frail elderly,
  • mental health issues among senior citizens,
  • falls prevention among the older population,
  • a Sarasota, FL, initiative related to the challenges associated with demographic transition, and
  • wealthy seniors helping seniors in financial need.

During our October webinar, we’ll learn about establishing a web-based resource center that contains vetted information and services for the elderly. In 2012, we have webinars scheduled on Caregiver Central (January), Vision Rehabilitation for Older Adults (February), and Visiting Nurse Hospice Atlanta’s Physician HouseCall (TBD).

Publicizing Webinars

We send notifications of webinars to members of the SECF’s EngAGEment Initiative Affinity Group each month and advertise them to the entire membership on the SECF website calendar and in e-publications, such as the Southeastern Grantmakers’ Weekly and Connections. Other associations have been most gracious about helping us publicize these sessions. In addition to notices in GIA’s Aging Matters, the North Carolina Network of Grantmakers and the Florida Philanthropic Network promote the webinars through their e-newsletters.


Each month, about 15-25 people register for the webinars and 12-20 actually participate. In addition to the SECF participants, we’ve had people from Connecticut to Alaska in our webinars; some have been from government agencies and nonprofits as well as foundations. Participants have been fully engaged as evidenced by the dialogue generated during the Q&A after each presentation.

Other Ways of Connecting

In conjunction with each webinar, we post supporting material on the EngAGEment Initaitive affinity group page on the SECF website (secf.org). This area of the site also includes blog posts, links and resources, and can support member-to-member conversations about the topics at hand. Members also post on SECF’s Facebook page and view related video on our YouTube channel.

Even though SECF’s service area is large, we fully understand the value of face-to-face connections, so our EngAGEment work is not totally dependent upon technology. SECF’s primary opportunity for in-person meetings is its Annual Meeting, held in November each year in different states. In November 2010, the EngAGEment Initiative held a luncheon meeting, attended by 38 people, prior to the conference, with two speakers: one from GIA to put the Initiative into context and the other to report on the results of the Initiative’s initial benchmark survey. In 2011, the Initiative was awarded time and space for another pre-conference luncheon and two program slots during the Annual Meeting. Brian Hofland, Ph.D., Director of Strategic Development for the National Council on Aging, will talk about the age wave and its impact on community at the luncheon and address the economic realities of aging at another session. A third session, the Dimensions of Caregiving, will take place on the first day of the conference and feature a panel of nonprofit executives whose organizations deal with caregiving. Registration for each event has been substantially gratifying.

Want to learn more? Contact me at pjj307@bellsouth.net or visit us on Facebook!

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