Independent Sector’s members represent the variety of ways that working toward the common good happens in our country, and they reflect an array of visions for making a better tomorrow.
Each month, we get to ring in a number of member-versaries, but some anniversaries are so big that they deserve a special celebration. This summer marked 20 years of IS membership for Together SC, the only statewide membership organization bringing together South Carolina’s entire nonprofit community.
We talked with Benjamin (Ben) Bullock, who has been with Together SC for seven years, and directs all of Together SC’s internal operations.
LM: Together SC joined IS in 1999. What would you think has changed the most over the history of Together SC? What do you think has stayed most constant?
BB: The way we changed the most is the overall way that our membership has expanded. Over the years our mission has also evolved from including mostly nonprofits to also including businesses and grantmakers, especially businesses involved in social good.
I think this mirrors changes across the sector as a whole with categories becoming less important, and more of a focus on social impact. Our name change a few years ago from the South Carolina Association of Nonprofit Organizations (SCANPO) to Together SC illustrates these shifts. We have a lot of longtime members who have been with us along the way; Together SC started in 1997, and we celebrated our 20th anniversary recently.
LM: Is there a hero or champion of your work in the organization’s history that you’d like to recognize?
BB: We’ve got a lot of heroes and champions! We’ve only got 4 full-time staff, so we can only get our work done because our members engage, serving on the Board, Committees, steering and sponsoring our annual Nonprofit Summit, etc. The support of our private and community foundations and United Ways have been integral to our work, as well as well as corporate supporters like Blackbaud and BlueCross Blue Shield of SC, and other organizations and people that have been so supportive of our work.
LM: Over the time that Together SC has been a member of IS, is there connection you have made or an event, resource, or learning you have found through your membership that has been especially meaningful?
BB: For us it is very much about Independent Sector’s advocacy work on the national level and how that relates to our work as a state association. We can speak for our community here and being able to join with national organizations and emphasize our voice is an important connection. We value the resources IS provides for advocacy and policy.
LM: What is something from the 90s that you miss? What’s something from that time that you don’t miss?
BB: I was in elementary and middle school in the 90s when Together SC was founded. I can’t say I have much of an idea of what nonprofits were like back then. I do think before internet was readily available and especially before social media in the 2000s that communication was really different. These new ways of communicating made it easier to connect in some ways but have not always made communication better or more meaningful. I do miss that simpler time of communication.
LM: What’s coming up for Together SC in the near future that you are most excited about? What opportunities and challenges do you see on the horizon for the broader charitable community that could affect your work?
BB: Our board of directors has gotten really interested in racial equity and discussing issues related to equity – it was a bigger part of our conference this past year, and race, equity, and inclusion will be an important focus of our March 2020 conference. We’ll discuss what do we need to do to bring more equity into our work, and both our members and board members are very excited to dig into this further. For the 2020 conference our speakers will include Dr. Jennifer Eberhardt (a professor of social psychology at Stanford University and author of Biased: Uncovering the Hidden Prejudice That Shapes What We See, Think, and Do) and Dr. Heather Hackman (consultant and trainer on social justice issues, former professor at St. Cloud State University), and we’ll also be drawing on local knowledge.
South Carolina has a sordid history, but with our history we are forced to confront this difficult past and learn from it in ways that other places without that well-known history might not challenge themselves to do.
The way we think about charity is changing, and the way we think about our work is changing. More is going to be asked of the social good sector. In turn, we have to think about how we do our work differently and what might change in the future. It’s not going to be easy, and it will require flexibility and a willingness to change — and creativity along the way.
LM: Is there anything else you’d like the IS community to know about Together SC?
BB: For any IS members who are not involved with their local or state associations of nonprofits or grantmakers, I think that being part of a state association is a good supplement to being involved with IS and helps you think about the ways that these networks work together.
Learn more about Together SC, based in Columbia SC, at www.togethersc.org.
Visit our members page to learn more about our members.