Good Friends of the Lowcountry just commenced its second year of giving. On December 1, nearly 280 women gathered for a one-hour luncheon to fundraise, providing the nonprofit with nearly $60,000 for their annual budget. This money is funnelled directly into the Lowcountry community, to fill distinct, one-time needs.
The first Good Friends organization started in Charlotte. The local, female-based group has raised over $3 million, and it just celebrated its thirty-year anniversary this past December. What began as a small group of thirty women has grown to nearly two thousand members in the Charlotte branch alone. From the Charlotte model, several Good Friends organizations have organized in cities throughout the Carolinas.
The concept is simple. Good Friends donors meet once a year and give as much or as little as they want. Throughout the year, social workers and case managers from My Sister’s House or MUSC—to name a few—connect the organization with specific, individual needs. For example, Good Friends of the Lowcountry will pay garage parking fees for a cancer patient who can’t afford to park for weekly chemotherapy sessions. The organization will pay to repair the car of a working nurse who supports five children. Good Friends will pay for an individual’s utility bills during tough times, for a patient’s unforeseen prescription costs, and even for a young woman’s dress to wear to a school ceremony.
“We give a lot of one-off assistance that normal 501(c)(3)s [nonprofits] can’t do. We fill very specific voids,” says board member Megan Phillips. “We really want to give where it makes the most impact.”
The organization is an incredible tool for social workers to employ when someone needs one-time financial assistance. So often, a single unforeseen cost can break a tenuous existence. Applications are submitted from the vast network of case workers in the Lowcountry and reviewed by a distribution coordinator. Money is then disbursed. directly to the individual.
The organization started small. With no budget for advertising, community involvement grew by word of mouth, friends invited friends. “It truly is grassroots growth,” says Phillips. “The cost of the luncheon is sponsored, so every penny that’s raised goes back to the Lowcountry community.” And though the inspiration came from Charlotte, Good Friends of the Lowcountry is an entirely distinct nonprofit organization—all funds stay local.
“The beauty of it is that it’s so simple,” says Phillips. “You go to one lunch, an hour a year. It’s an hour of time for a year of giving.”