Member Highlight: Mary Thomas

Every offering of Philanthropy Essentials kicks off with a module dedicated to a broad review of philanthropy and the Southeastern region – its history, its demographics, the challenges it faces and how it is changing.

There are not many people better equipped to lead this session than Mary Thomas. The chief operating officer of The Spartanburg County Foundation, Mary has nearly three decades of experience in the field and has helped lead some of its most innovative work.

Mary says she hopes Philanthropy Essentials participants understand that projects like the Racial Equity Collaborative are critical to the future of the field and the region’s communities.

“I hope they see the significant impact that philanthropy has in communities when applying Passing Gear principals and all forms of capital that allow change to happen in communities across the South,” she said. “My goal is to share a philanthropic ecosystem that is wide and varied with multiple ways to engage, inspire, champion and support causes that matter.”

Mary will also bring with her a sense of historical perspective – she has worked throughout a time of incredible change for both the field and the region.

“The biggest change is the talk and work around racial equity,” she said. “This work is messy but necessary. It is encouraging to see this region using its voice for change – although daunting, we must persist.”

Philanthropy Essentials participants, Mary said, will hopefully come away from next month’s training knowing the value of understanding the communities in which they work – and the people they ultimately work to support.

“Effectiveness in philanthropy is all about trust and relationships,” she said. “Having knowledge of the key issues in the region, as well as opportunities, can propel one’s ability to affect transformative change.”

In fact, Mary is still working to affect transformative change in and around Spartanburg. She is one of the leaders of the Spartanburg Racial Equity Collaborative, an initiative conducted in partnership with the Mary Black Foundation that was recognized with the Truist Promise Award at last year’s Annual Meeting.

As 2022 begins, the initiative’s ongoing work continues to motivate Mary.

“I am eager to use my authenticity to move the needle on issues that deserve our attention and action,” she said. “Now is our time, and we must speak up, stand up and advocate for those whom we are called to serve.”


Philanthropy Southeast
100 Peachtree Street NW, Suite 2080
Atlanta, GA 30303

Visiting Philanthropy Southeast:
All staff are working remotely at this time but can still be reached via email and by calling (404) 524-0911.

Monday-Thursday from 9:00am–6:00pm (ET)
Friday from 9:00am–12:00pm (ET)

Phone: (404) 524-0911
Fax: (404) 523-5116

Mission: Philanthropy Southeast strengthens Southern philanthropy, welcoming our members to listen, learn and collaborate on ideas and actions to help build an equitable, prosperous South.