History

GWG Founders

Founders (left to right) Frances Ellison, Sue Priester, Harriet Goldsmith

A “Good Idea”

Greenville Women Giving (GWG) was established in 2006 through the vision of one local woman, Harriet Goldsmith. For years Harriet has kept a file labeled “good ideas” that includes interesting and inspiring things she learns about through her extensive reading. One keepsake in this file was an article about a women’s philanthropic organization in Seattle, WA. Founded by Colleen Willoughby in 1995, the Washington Women’s Foundation is composed of women who pool their financial resources together in order to have a greater impact in addressing and meeting their community’s needs.

Collective giving by a group of women: this idea intrigued Harriet. She knew people in Greenville are generous in their giving, and felt women especially would be interested in the collective giving concept. Harriet shared her idea with Bob Morris, President of the Community Foundation of Greenville. She realized that a vision of this magnitude should not be attempted alone; therefore, she sought Bob’s counsel on other women to engage in this effort. Bob readily recommended Frances Ellison and Sue Priester. So around Harriet’s dining room table, the three women began visioning what would create a thriving philanthropic women’s group in Greenville.

While they thought the idea would be appealing, they also knew it would take a personal approach to make their dream a reality. They started recruiting members on a one-to-one basis, gaining inspiration from a challenge issued by the Community Foundation, as it celebrated its 50th anniversary: if they could recruit 50 members the first year, the Community Foundation would match those contributions by donating $50,000 from the Jean Harris Knight Fund at the Foundation. Jean Harris Knight was a generous Greenville philanthropist whose giving reflected the spirit of GWG, and Harriet, Frances, and Sue knew they could not let this opportunity for an extra $50,000 slip away. No surprise that the challenge was not only met, but exceeded! Instead of recruiting just 50 members, 135 women joined during that first year, ready to engage in this new venture of women learning, working, and giving together to collectively make a real difference. The Community Foundation has continued to support GWG through additional grants and administrative support.

Find out how a $50,000 matching grant got us started

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GWG, a special initiative of the Community Foundation, has realized steady growth in membership, even during tough economic times, and currently has over 550 members.

Greenville Women Giving – what began as a “good idea” is now considered a “best idea” by its members and the community.

Timeline

2006 – Frances Ellison, Harriet Goldsmith and Sue Priester found GWG

2007 – 135 members give away $185,000 at first annual meeting

2009 – GWG hires part-time administrator

2010 – GWG joins WCGN (national organization of women’s collective giving groups)

2010 – Cumulative grants total exceeds $1 million

2012 – Launch of strategic planning process

2012 – GWG awards first $100,000 grant to Public Education Partners

2013 – GWG joins Greenville Philanthropic Partnership

2014 – Grants total for one year exceeds $500,000

2015 – Nationally recognized philanthropist Darla Moore headlines 10th anniversary kickoff

2016 – Total membership exceeds 500 women

2017 – GWG founders receive Order of the Silver Crescent from Governor Nikki Haley