History of NPA
In the summer of 2011, a nonprofit executive raised his hand at a Greenville Chamber of Commerce event titled, “Getting the most out of your chamber membership.” He asked how many nonprofits existed at the chamber and did the nonprofits have their own affinity group. When informed such did not exist, he asked if he could begin one. The Chamber response was a definitive yes and they even offered to help develop the concept, committing a senior staff member to the work.
During that summer, 40 nonprofit executives met to take the idea further. The name, Non Profit Alliance (NPA), was chosen. The co-chairs and their team of 10 steering committee members were voted on, and the primary purpose was decided upon: to provide peer to peer engagement for comraderie, learning, and further partnership. Original co-chairs were David White, as the founder, and Liz Seman. They began to call each other ying and yang, supporting each other as co-chairs over the first 3 years of this new venture.
The Steering Committee met often in those early years and then settled upon a quarterly approach. Their method was to each commit towards being in charge of one monthly meeting per year. They would help choose the topic – marketing, finance, operations, saving the world – and then invite speakers.
The Chamber offered a launch event in the Gold Room of the Westin Poinsett. Representatives from over 100 nonprofits were in attendance. The energy was remarkable, as old friends saw each other and emerging leaders saw nonprofits as a strong voice standing together. In the second year, the Chamber hosted a nonprofit led forum called Dollars and Sense, bringing together nonprofit leaders with for-profit leaders at the Larkins Sawmill. The goal was to discuss the intersection between corporate engagement and community improvement.
In the third year, neighboring Spartanburg began to study the NPA, to bring it to their community as well. The State-wide nonprofit association, TogetherSC, began a partnership with the NPA in following years, asking for members of the NPA to serve on their Board and discussing ways to cross train members.
The early years have many fond memories. It all worked, giving NPA the foundation for long-term growth. What was the secret sauce? Several things. The goal was simple: a platform where peers could network intentionally. The leadership was hand-picked. Nonprofit executives wanted to be so honored and were required to work hard as a key member of the team. The partnerships were of mutual benefit. Whether with the Chamber, Westin Poinsett, Larkins, all the speakers who gave us their time, TogetherSC. Everyone wanted the concept to grow, for the benefit of the community.
The energy remained strong in those early years. Ying and Yang moved on to other roles eventually. The Steering Committee invited in new leadership. Yet, the wonder of folks finding their common values and a common voice as one entity – nonprofits helping to build a better Greenville – remained strong…and remains so today.