2018 Mary L. Thomas Award Seeks Next Generation Philanthropists

The Mary L. Thomas Award for Civic Leadership and Community Change recognizes the contributions of individuals who have demonstrated outstanding commitment to improving the quality of life in the community. The Spartanburg County Foundation seeks nominees who develop innovative solutions to tackle critical community issues. The recipients seize opportunities to make a difference by offering compassionate leadership, commitment, and personal skills, with the ultimate goal of creating a better and brighter tomorrow.

In 2018, The Spartanburg County Foundation celebrates 75 years of impacting lives. Such a milestone offers an opportunity to reflect on decades of successful community partnerships, a rich tradition of innovation, and ongoing philanthropic efforts that impact lives. In keeping with this spirit, the 2018 Mary L. Thomas Award will focus on celebrating the next generation of philanthropists, young people who are committed to improving the community around them. These individuals, ages 12-30 years old, give their time and resources to nonprofit organizations, develop charitable programs, and lead efforts to positively change the lives of others.

Criteria for Selection:

Identifying innovative solutions and implementing new ideas that successfully address critical issues facing the Spartanburg community

Community Leadership and Impact
Adding value, providing leadership, and contributing to positive change in the Spartanburg community

Civic Participation and Community Engagement
Investing time and engaging others to contribute to positive community growth and transformation

Eligibility Requirements

  • Nominees must be residents of Spartanburg County, South Carolina.
  • Nominees must be ages 12-30 years old. NOTE: Nominees should fall within this range on the date nominations are due (January 19, 2018).
  • Nominees must be in good standing ethically, possess a strong sense of integrity and good character.
  • The efforts of nominees must be documented during the past 12 months, illustrating the impact made on the Spartanburg community – whether through direct service, philanthropy or drawing attention to a community need.
  • The nominee’s project may have been developed in one or more of the following three areas: 1) Inside or outside of the classroom; 2) In partnership with a nonprofit organization or religious institution; 3) Through an initiative or organization started on his/her own or with friends. If the nominee’s project does not align with at least one of the three areas, please explain why the nominee should be considered for the award.
  • If the nominee is connected to a Spartanburg County nonprofit organization through paid employment, the individual must demonstrate community impact beyond the scope of his or her job.

The recipient will receive an award at the Foundation’s Annual Meeting in March 2018, and will be honored with a $5,000 grant to be given to a charity selected by the recipient and the Foundation.


The deadline for nominations is January 19, 2018, by 5:00 p.m.
To nominate an individual for the 2018 Mary L. Thomas Award for Civic Leadership and Community Change, click on the link below.


Spartanburg Interfaith Alliance

Interfaith Alliance Logo Final
The Spartanburg Community Thanksgiving Service has provided an annual opportunity for people of faith to gather together in celebration and gratitude for over fifteen years. Following the 2013 Service, a group of Foundation staff and clergy met to discuss how the faith community could come together more than once a year. The group researched various faith community networks and formed the Spartanburg Interfaith Alliance in 2014.

The Purpose
The Spartanburg Interfaith Alliance is a network of clergy, lay leaders, and faith communities joining together for the purpose of contributing to the common good. The Alliance was formed as a partnership between area clergy and The Spartanburg County Foundation. In 2016, the Alliance began hosting an annual program of events focused on different community issues and opportunities to connect and serve together. A schedule of Spartanburg Interfaith Alliance Meetings is listed below.

The Goal
The central goal of The Spartanburg Interfaith Alliance is to serve as a resource hub for community engagement and create a network to leverage the faith community and its many assets to meet the needs of the greater Spartanburg County community.

The Compassion Fund
In 2014, the Alliance established The Kirk H. Neely Spartanburg County Compassion Fund to honor the Reverend Dr. Kirk H. Neely for his instrumental work in uniting the faith community to charitably and collectively meet the needs of worthy causes through the offerings collected each year at the Spartanburg Community Thanksgiving Service. The Alliance is currently working to build this fund and has not yet reached the point of awarding grants. Once fully funded, The Compassion Fund will award grants to faith-based and community-based organizations meeting the immediate needs of the poor in Spartanburg County, South Carolina. This access to additional resources will provide the Alliance the opportunity to come together to meet needs in the Spartanburg community. If you would like to contribute to the Compassion Fund, click “Give Now” on the left side of the screen and type in “Compassion Fund.” All contributions are tax-deductible.


Are you interested in becoming a part of the Spartanburg Interfaith Alliance?

Join us at any of the 2017 Spartanburg Interfaith Alliance Meetings!  Spartanburg Interfaith Alliance 2017 Schedule


Please click here to download a partnership form and mail it to “Attention: Spartanburg Interfaith Alliance, The Spartanburg County Foundation, 424 E. Kennedy Street, Spartanburg, SC 29302.”  Please call The Spartanburg County Foundation office if you have any questions at (864) 582.0138.

Community Initiatives

Celebrating over 70 years of service to the greater Spartanburg community, The Spartanburg County Foundation is the oldest community foundation in South Carolina.  The Foundation is governed by a volunteer board of respected community leaders and managed by professionals with knowledge of the community and its most pressing needs.

Established in 1943, The Spartanburg County Foundation is committed to improving the lives of Spartanburg County residents by promoting philanthropy, encouraging community engagement and responding to community needs. Currently, the Foundation manages a portfolio of more than 900 charitable funds with assets in excess of $145 million. Since its inception, The Spartanburg County Foundation and its donors have given more than $119 million in grants for the advancement of education, arts and culture, historic preservation, health, social services, recreation, and youth activities.

Beyond grantmaking, The Foundation serves as a catalyst to bring diverse groups together to collaborate, form partnerships, address issues, foster giving and generate involvement.  Highlighted below are some of the Foundation’s key leadership efforts:

Spartanburg Community Indicators Project

Since 1989, The Spartanburg County Foundation has published indicator publications to effectively raise awareness of the key issues that impact the growth, health, and quality of life in Spartanburg County.  The project is now a collaboration of The Spartanburg County Foundation, United Way of the Piedmont, Spartanburg County Government and The University of South Carolina Upstate. The goal of the Spartanburg Community Indicators Project is to report on data and community initiatives to inspire dialogue and strategy that lead to change within the community. A host of community and faith-based organizations use the indicators for their strategic planning and outreach efforts. Visit www.strategicspartanburg.org to learn more.

Strengthening Voices Initiative / Grassroots Leadership Development Institute

Through the Strengthening Voices Initiative, the Foundation has worked since 2004 to strengthen organizations and families in the Spartanburg community.  The Foundation has successfully leveraged its grant dollars with national funders, such as the William Randolph Hearst Foundation and the Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation, to award grants that build the capacity of local organizations and grassroots leaders. Through this initiative, the Grassroots Leadership Development Institute was formed to inspire Spartanburg citizens to assume ownership of critical community issues and equip them with the knowledge, skills and resources needed to bring about significant change. Since its inception in 2004, the Institute has helped more than 225 Spartanburg citizens develop critical leadership and organizational skills. Learn more

The 40/30 Challenge / College Hub / Spartanburg Academic Movement

The Spartanburg County Foundation’s role in meeting educational attainment needs has been one of leadership and guidance.  When The 40/30 Challenge was proposed in 2008, which challenges 40 percent of Spartanburg County residents age 25 and above to hold a bachelor’s degree by the year 2030, the Foundation stepped in to provide leadership and facilitate the logistics of how to proceed moving forward.  The journey continued as the Foundation turned The 40/30 Challenge into a working plan, with a primary focus that included the establishment of the College Hub.  The Foundation recruited an inaugural board, developed organizational by-laws, and continued its incubation of the initiative until December 2010 when the structure of the College Hub was set in place. The College Hub’s goal was to increase college attainment through the implementation of programs that focus on connecting students to college resources, connecting businesses to education, and impacting a college-going mindset in Spartanburg County.  In addition to its initial investment of over $200,000 in staff time and financial support, the Foundation presented a $500,000 lead challenge grant to the College Hub in 2011 as seed funding in a continued effort to show support and further promote sustainability.  In 2012, the College Hub merged with the Children’s Services Alliance, which served as a network engaging pre-K providers and agencies, to form the Spartanburg Academic Movement (SAM).  The Spartanburg Academic Movement is an all-in partnership of schools and colleges, businesses, governments, foundations, faith communities and individuals across Spartanburg County in pursuit of high levels of educational achievement.  Its goal is to measure academic accomplishments that matter – cradle to career; set achievement targets that escalate annually; align networks in pursuit of these targets; and report progress with persistent regularity. Visit www.learnwithsam.org to learn more.

Women Giving for Spartanburg

Women Giving for Spartanburg is a women’s giving circle founded in 2007 as a special project of The Spartanburg County Foundation. Its mission is to maximize women’s leadership in philanthropy by engaging and informing its membership, increasing charitable contributions, and significantly improving the greater Spartanburg community through the impact of collective giving.  Currently, more than 240 members have joined.  Each May, membership contributions are pooled and high impact grants are given to local organizations.  Women Giving for Spartanburg has granted over $1.8 million to the community since its inception. Learn more

Mary L. Thomas Award for Civic Leadership and Community Change

In 2006, Mary L. Thomas, executive vice president of the Foundation was awarded the prestigious Robert W. Scrivner Award for Creative Grant Making. Selected because of her imagination, optimism and leadership, Mary received a $10,000 prize as part of the award. In her boundless spirit of giving, Mary used the money to start the Mary L. Thomas Award for Civic Leadership and Community Change Fund. The fund has since grown to over $100,000 through the support of the generous Spartanburg community. Through the fund, an award is given each March to honor community leaders, innovators and contributors to community change. Click here to learn more and nominate an individual or group for the 2016 Mary L. Thomas Award for Civic Leadership and Community Change.

Citizen Scholars

Citizen Scholars connects local students with mentors who provide knowledge, encouragement, and support throughout their academic journey.  Over seven years, from sixth grade to the completion of high school, students receive tutoring and participate in monthly activities designed to help them succeed in all aspects of life.  Scholars are exposed to a culture where education is a priority and an essential element to a successful future.  Since its inception in 1996, the Foundation has matched more than 171 student/mentor pairs.  A majority of the scholars have continued their education at institutions of higher learning, pursuing dreams that otherwise seemed impossible a few short years before. Learn More 

The Healthy Organization Institute

In 2011, The Spartanburg County Foundation collaborated with the Spartanburg Community Indicators Project to commission The State of The Nonprofit Infrastructure Study to learn more about the challenges facing area nonprofit organizations and to explore potential solutions. In addition, the Foundation facilitated a series of Nonprofit Listening Sessions to hear directly from executive directors in the Spartanburg community. As a result of these studies, the Foundation spent a year researching best practices exploring the possibility of developing a Healthy Organization Institute (HOI)—a training program for nonprofits in Spartanburg County designed to build a stronger nonprofit community.  In 2012, the Joint Funders, a group consisting of the Mary Black Foundation, The Spartanburg County Foundation, Spartanburg Regional Foundation, and the United Way of the Piedmont, began collaborating to further explore the establishment of a Healthy Organization Institute.  The University of South Carolina Upstate and George Dean Johnson, Jr. College of Business and Economics joined the partnership in 2013, and worked with the group to complete the planning and development of The Healthy Organization Institute, a five-month, comprehensive, best practices training program designed to improve the capacity and effectiveness of nonprofit organizations in Spartanburg County.  This comprehensive best practices training program for nonprofit executive directors and board chairs incorporates peer learning, classroom instruction, and creative problem solving to allow leaders to take back to their organizations solid, practical concepts and build them into the framework for their organizations.  A pilot program was launched in January 2014, in which 12 nonprofit organizations participated. In 2015, 10 nonprofit organizations graduated from the Institute. Learn More