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.
By partnering, not only are we able to leverage resources, but it also provides an additional opportunity to leverage knowledge. We immediately put our heads together to identify an organization that met the criteria for funding as outlined in the Listen for Good request for proposals. Almost in unison, the staff identified Middle Tyger Community Center, a nonprofit organization serving the western part of Spartanburg County. Their comprehensive approach to serving the community, from infants to seniors, includes a health clinic, day care and preschool, adolescent family life program serving teen moms, adult education and return-to-learn, counseling, food pantry, and senior programs.
We immediately reached out to Andrea Moore, executive director of the community center. Andrea was thrilled at the invitation to compete for these national dollars and submitted an application.
“For the past couple of years, we’ve been asking ourselves some tough questions about our work with families in poverty: What is our aspirational end goal? What activities are likely to result in the long-term outcomes we hope to achieve? What role, if any, do safety net services play in helping clients reach financial stability?” said Andrea. “We knew before we made changes, such as adding or eliminating programs, we needed to hear from our clients.”
In October, we were notified that Middle Tyger Community Center was one of 66 organizations in 2017 selected to receive $45,000 in funding in addition to technical assistance over the next two years. This brings the total number of nonprofits participating in Listen for Good to 112.
“Receiving input from our clients is vital to ensuring that we are providing the services and programs that they truly want and need, and not just what we think they should want or need,” said Andrea. “We want everyone who enters our doors to feel respected and valued, and we welcome our clients’ input on ways we can improve both our services and the client experience.”
Middle Tyger Community Center is not alone in doing this work or in asking the hard questions about how to move the needle on important issues in our community. This organization is excited to share its learnings from this project with other organizations in our community to achieve an even greater collective impact.
Middle Tyger Community Center is the first organization in the state of South Carolina to receive this national grant. What was even more surprising is that Spartanburg was the first community in which funders collaborated to nominate an organization. Collectively, The Spartanburg County Foundation and Mary Black Foundation will fulfill the $15,000 match requirement.
We see this as a win-win for Spartanburg as we are able leverage national partnerships and bring in additional philanthropic dollars to benefit our local community. We look forward to learning alongside our foundation and nonprofit colleagues around the country as we listen to the people we seek to help. We are all partnering to listen for good.
Tara Weese is director of grants and initiatives at The Spartanburg County Foundation. This piece was written in partnership with Molly Talbot-Metz, vice president of programs at the Mary Black Foundation.