In March 2020, when South Carolina schools and non-essential businesses closed due to COVID-19[female[feminine, charities were also faced with daily decisions about how to move forward in the event of a pandemic. Fortunately, Greenville County Nonprofits and the donors who provide much of their funding each had an alliance that allowed them to navigate uncharted territory together. Leaders of nonprofits say coordination between these two groups has improved their response to community needs, to the benefit of the populations they serve.
Members of Greenville Partnership for Philanthropy – public and private foundations and corporate sponsors – traditionally disburse funds after long cycles of grant application and approval. But this model was not well suited to meet the pressing needs caused by COVID-19. So they’ve changed, contributing millions of dollars to the United Way of Greenville County’s COVID Relief Fund and directly to nonprofits.
“In some communities there is a rivalry between funders, but here it has quickly come together in a coordinated effort,” says Katy Smith, GPP facilitator. “Members have also invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in loan financing through CommunityWorks Carolina. This provided loan guarantees that helped many small businesses, many owned by women and people of color, weather the storm. “
GPP has partnered with the Nonprofit Alliance to deliver a series of webinars to members of both groups. Topics included how to apply for Paycheck Protection Program funding and ways to support employees. Experts covered planning in uncertain times and offered coaching sessions with a nonprofit consultant and a local accounting firm. The goal, says Catherine Puckett, interim executive director of the NPA, was to equip nonprofits so they can better serve the public.
“The past year has been such a learning curve for everyone. The nonprofit leaders worked hard; it was tiring. People felt the need for a sense of community and NPA and GPP came together to deliver that, ”Puckett said. “There were opportunities for leaders of nonprofits to share what they were working on, to support each other and to learn from each other. “
Dawn Dowden, COO of Houses of Hope, a local provider of affordable housing and workforce development, says having one place to turn for information and collaboration has had a profound impact on nonprofits, providers direct services to arts organizations.
“We still had to do our work, and for the nonprofits that deal with food and accommodation, the work increased. Having a one-stop-shop for learning how to get resources like PPP loans, or how to take care of our staff, has allowed us to better use our time, ”says Dowden, who is also chairman of the board of the NPA.
Last summer, NPA and GPP launched a 21-day equity challenge and offered their members coaching on racial equity, diversity and inclusion. Recognizing the value of education and collaboration provided by both groups, members began to come to Puckett and Smith with ideas for future webinars, such as a series on board participation and productivity.
One of the topics that they believed will shape the way forward for donors and nonprofits was advocacy training. These skills came in handy when NPA and GPP members led advocacy efforts related to Greenville County’s coronavirus relief funds. County leaders found their case compelling, allocating $ 38 million of the county’s $ 91 million for community needs.
“This success has reinforced the importance for funders of partnering with nonprofits and lending their voices that nonprofits should be included,” Smith said. “The nonprofit advocacy has done incredible things: funds have been allocated to cover electricity bills, rent, child care and operating costs. By working together we have been successful in helping people overcome COVID-19 and hope we have left some families in a better place. “
To learn more about the Nonprofit Alliance, visit npagreenville.org. To learn more about Greenville Partnership for Philanthropy, visit greenvillephilanthropy.org