Sisters of Charity Foundation turns 15

COLUMBIA—The Sisters of Charity Foundation of South Carolina, a ministry of the Sisters of Charity Health System, celebrates 15 years in philanthropy this fall.

“The work of this foundation has been inspiring, rewarding and challenging,” said Tom Keith, president. “We have learned a lot about ourselves and the communities we serve. While we have adapted to change over the past 15 years, we have always remained steady to our mission to reduce poverty in the state.”

The foundation was formed out of the sale of 50 percent of Providence Hospitals in 1996. It has awarded more than 1,400 grants and over $42 million to faith-based and nonprofit organizations throughout the state, according to a press release.

“It is one thing to understand the disparity of the poor, but it is quite another to invest tremendous energy and resources to affect change in their lives,” said Yvonne Orr, board chair. “We have supported organizations at all levels and have witnessed many triumphs and change.”

The Foundation cited its Fatherhood Initiative as an example of recognizing a need and continuing to support it. Since 1998, more than $19 million has been awarded to the Fatherhood Initiative, a statewide initiative working to strengthen relationships between low-income fathers and their families in South Carolina. The Fatherhood Initiative has received national recognition for its innovative approach and is viewed as a best practice. In 2002, the foundation established the South Carolina Center for Fathers and Families, a nonprofit organization which develops and supports a statewide infrastructure that strengthens relationships between fathers and families throughout South Carolina. Thc Center currently oversees six programs in 11 sites across the state.

Through its Carolina Academy for Nonprofits, created in 2008, the Foundation has provided training and technical assistance to hundreds of nonprofit staff and volunteers at no cost. A partnership was even formed with Columbia College to give nonprofit leaders an opportunity for formal, graduate-level education and the potential to earn certificate in Nonprofit Leadership Training from Columbia College’s Organizational Change Management graduate program. This certificate program is now in its third year.

“We look for ways to build the capacity of organizations in which we invest. Many of the groups have an inspiring mission but lack the necessary skills to implement programs effectively,” said Orr. “Our job is to help bring them to a level where they can make their program successful, and ultimately impact their community and the people they serve.”

Additionally, the foundation has spearheaded the start of several new organizations to meet targeted needs and foster collaboration. The foundation was instrumental in the creation of the South Carolina Grantmakers Network in 1997. The network is a group of more than 40 philanthropic grant-making organizations across the state that discusses current issues and common concerns. The foundation aided in forming the South Carolina Center for Grassroots and Non-Profit Leadership at Clemson University, the South Carolina Afterschool Alliance and the Fatherhood Policy Project Office.