Building an Inclusive Economy
Author: Mary Thomas
Our economic landscape today looks very different than it did 25 years ago. This pattern of change will inevitably continue as technological advancements are rapidly introduced to the world.
To adapt to this new landscape, foundations must be willing to shift and evolve with the changing communities we serve. Seventy-five years ago, our founder— Walter Scott Montgomery—had a vision of introducing community philanthropy to Spartanburg County to meet the needs of the entire area. His vision began with a $10,000 investment that has evolved into a $213 million philanthropic organization that is continuously working to improve the lives of Spartanburg County residents by promoting philanthropy, encouraging local engagement, and responding to community needs.
A great thought leader in our community, Roger Milliken, lived by this motto, “Innovate or die.” Community institutions would do well to live by those words to ensure that our organizations continue to think ahead and maximize community impact by deploying innovative solutions to the issues facing our region. The success that the Spartanburg County Foundation has seen over the years is partly because of its ability to look ahead, remain flexible, and change when necessary to address local issues.
Bringing a Little Heart & Soul to South Carolina
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.
Grantee Inclusion: An Adaptive Challenge
Last month, I was fortunate to attend the Grantee Inclusion Workshop in Savannah, GA, made possible by a partnership between SECF and Grantmakers for Effective Organizations (GEO). The Mary Black Foundation, like many foundations in the Southeast, has been following the work of GEO and has been particularly interested in best practice research around how to meaningfully engage grantees.
The Grantee Inclusion Workshop was perfectly designed to facilitate thinking about why grantee inclusion is important, what organizational changes might be needed to better engage grantees, and how foundation staff can lead those changes.
According to GEO, 53 percent of staffed foundations solicit feedback from their grantees and use that information to shape their policies, programs and strategies. Yet, surveys of foundation staff and nonprofit leaders demonstrate a disconnect between grantmakers’ view of themselves and how nonprofits perceive grantmakers regarding openness to discussing a variety of topics.
Coming Together to Listen for Good
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.
International African American Museum in Charleston Attracts Support from Philanthropy
Author: Alexa Asendorf
“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.
Member Highlight: Langley Shealy
Author: Southeastern Council of Foundations
The year is only two weeks old, but Langley Shealy has already taken on two new responsibilities -- she recently accepted a new position at the Sisters of Charity Foundation of South Carolina and has also agreed to serve as a faculty member at next month's offering of Essential Skills & Strategies for New Grantmakers.
After more than six years as the foundation's director of communications and public information, Shealy has now stepped into the position of community outreach director. The role will see her serve more often as the public face of the foundation while also strengthening relationships with its grantees.
"The care and consideration that the foundation shows in the selection of grantees is matched by that organization's desire to include us in their milestone moments," Langley said. "It has become physically impossible for the foundation president and/or program staff to attend all of these wonderful events while continuing to perform their daily duties. I am excited to be able to focus on celebrating these incredible grantees and to serve as the ‘face' of the Foundation at these events."
In the Palmetto State, Public Policy Takes Center Stage
Author: Matthew L. Evans
For more than a year, SECF has explored ways to emphasize the importance of public policy efforts at the local level, helping grantmakers get involved in the advocacy process in their own state. One state where these efforts have truly taken off is South Carolina. Last week I had the pleasure of attending two advocacy-related convenings in the state – only the latest in a series of several visits focused on policy.
At a June 19 “Advocacy Allies” gathering hosted by Together SC, a membership organization representing nonprofits in the state, nonprofit leaders, including grantmakers, from across the state came together to discuss public policy and advocacy work on behalf of the nonprofit sector in South Carolina. Over 40 attendees provided updates about their advocacy work during the 2019 legislative session and discussed strategies that worked – and lessons learned from those that didn’t. The group also discussed employing a more coordinated advocacy approach that, combined with a sound engagement strategy, would allow them to speak with a collective voice. giving advocacy in the state a more collective voice going forward. The level of enthusiasm at the event was encouraging.