IS members represent nonprofits, foundations, and corporations engaged in every kind of charitable endeavor, with missions that reflect the nearly infinite ways of working for the common good.
New member United Way of Greenville County has a vision of a cycle for success for everyone in Greenville County, South Carolina. To build this cycle, United Way leads and supports partnerships to address shared community challenges. We spoke with Meghan Barp, President and CEO of United Way of Greenville County.
Q: Tell us a little bit about your career path and how you arrived at your present position.
MB: I have had the privilege of being in the nonprofit sector for my entire career, and I’ve done that in great cities around the country. I started my career overseeing the youth programming at the YWCA of the city of New York in Midtown Manhattan. My time in this role really shaped my understanding of social justice, urban poverty, youth, and families and the role of the nonprofit sector in creating solutions. I worked throughout the five boroughs of New York, implementing Out of School Time programs in significantly underserved neighborhoods. After nine years, I had the opportunity to move to Minneapolis, Minnesota and landed at Greater Twin Cities United Way, most recently serving as the Senior Vice President of Community Impact, overseeing a $50 million portfolio of investments in the region. One of the things that I loved about evolving to philanthropy was the opportunity to focus on systems change with a much larger platform. Just over a year ago, I was asked to consider leading the United Way of Greenville County as President and CEO, and I jumped at the opportunity to be part of such an incredible community with a strong United Way. United Way is uniquely positioned to solve some of our community’s most pressing issues at the intersection of public and private sectors. Greenville has been on many national top ten lists as a great place to work, live, and play, which is all true! However, that is not the case for all of our residents. We have increasing challenges related to growth — affordable housing, transportation, and economic mobility to name a few.
Q: You’ve been in your role with United Way of Greenville a little over a year now. Has there been a day you remember that was extraordinary or special?
MB: One day that’s been really extraordinary is our annual Hands on Greenville Day powered by United Way, where over 5,000 volunteers come together around service projects in our community. This year we are celebrating our 25th anniversary of this day on May 4, and we expect this to be our best year yet with nearly 130 project sites around the county.
Q: Describe some of the programs or services your organization runs.
MB: We invest in over 70 programs and initiatives that work together to break the cycle of poverty and build what we call a Cycle of Success. This includes strategic funding in our community fighting for the education, income, and health of all.
One initiative that we are especially proud of is our middle grades success initiative, OnTrack Greenville. It’s been an unprecedented collaborative effort among our school district, local foundations, other community partners, and the federal Social Innovation Fund. And the impact we’re seeing is nothing less than transformative.
The schools use a state-of-the-art early warning and response system tracking attendance, behavior, and course performance to flag students in danger of falling off track to graduation. Then, evidence-based supports funded through OnTrack provide services to assist students and families. These include free school-based healthcare, mentoring, summer learning, leadership and social-emotional development, and instructional support.
We’ve seen promising increases in academic performance and decreases in chronic absenteeism and behavior referrals. Our school administration has been so encouraged and inspired by the results that they are planning to scale the program across the entire school district.
Another important service we provide to the community is our Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program, or VITA. Last year, VITA helped more than 12,000 taxpayers file for free, saving an estimated $2.5 million in preparation fees and generating more than $14 million in tax returns. That has a huge impact on the pocketbook of the people we serve and our local economy.
Q: What are you most excited about this year?
MB: There has been an increased intentionality around diversity, inclusion, and equity and we are ready to take this to the next level as an organization and as a community.
As I begin my second year here, I’m excited to synthesize what we’ve learned to establish a strong foundation for the future. The best United Ways are constantly evolving alongside their communities and setting a vision for the future to remain relevant. I’m excited to be a part of that.
Q: What is one of your favorite places to be in your community?
MB: Greenville is a phenomenal city to live in. During my downtime you can often find my husband Shane and I enjoying the many green spaces, restaurants, and cultural venues that our city has to offer.
Q: Is there an unsung hero on your team or in your office you’d like to shout out?
MB: I am fortunate to work with an awesome team that works so hard to make this community special for everyone—we are nearly 50 strong at United Way of Greenville County, and it is such a privilege to be able to work alongside caring, compassionate people.
Learn more about United Way of Greenville County at www.unitedwaygc.org.
United Way of Greenville County is one of a number of local United Ways throughout the country that are part of the Independent Sector member community. Affiliates or chapters of national organizations with a current Independent Sector membership receive a special rate on membership dues. Learn more about membership for affiliates and chapters and visit our members page to learn more about our members.