A hometown masterpiece, the Greenville County Museum of Art banks on largesse. Now, one of its leading benefactors, United Community Bank, is honored with the coveted Philanthropic Spirit Award. UCB donates $50,000 toward the museum’s Antiques, Fine Art & Design Weekend, held each October to celebrate its annual Art for Greenville fundraising campaign, which has raised more than $10 million in 32 years, the museum’s executive director Tom Styron says.

He offers effusive thanks to the bank and its CEO, Lynn Harton. “Most businessmen don’t understand the concept of giving money away; the point is to make money, but he sees this as an investment.

Photography by Eli Warren

“So many aspects to this collection have been built over the past three decades, and we couldn’t have done it without people like Lynn and companies like United Community Bank and their investment in the cultural well-being of this community.”

Michelle Seaver, the bank’s Greenville County president, responds to the Community Foundation of Greenville’s honor.

Why do you suppose United Community Bank won this award? >> I think the name of the award says it all. At United, we have a real philanthropic spirit and it starts at the top. I believe we received this award because of our genuine commitment to making our community a better place.

What are your thoughts and feelings about receiving this award? >> It’s a huge honor! There are so many companies doing so much good in this community. It’s great to be recognized for something so important to us.

How does UCB choose your beneficiaries? >> Ultimately, we want to give in ways that will make each of our communities better, but we also try to support organizations that our teammates are involved in or care about. We don’t just give financial support, but we also want to give of our time.

“United Community Bank is living up to the word ‘community’ by playing a key role in making ours a better place. With Lynn Harton, CEO at the helm, and Michelle Seaver, President of Greenville County UCB, the bank is involved with the Peace Center, Greenville County Museum of Art, Ice on Main, March of Dimes, and a number of other Upstate non-profits. This award is a well-deserved honor for United Community Bank.”—Howard Einstein, division manager of Rosenfeld Einstein

 

What’s unique about Greenville’s philanthropic community? >> As a lifelong resident, I believe the amount of giving in this community is impressive. I would say that a philanthropic spirit has helped shape Greenville through the years. So many public-private partnerships truly make a lasting difference, and that’s not something you see everywhere else.

Can you briefly explain what philanthropy and leadership have in common? >> Philanthropy gives us a chance to lead in a different way. It allows us to lead with our hearts to impact a change that needs to happen. We don’t want to just give funds, but we want to be a part of the model to help make thwe change to better
our community. 

How do you encourage your employees to give back to the community outside of the corporate efforts? >> We recognize that everyone has something they feel passionate about, and we try to support them in their efforts. We have “Blue Jean Fridays,” where our teammates pay $5 to wear jeans on a Friday, and we give that money to a charity. During the spring, these funds support the March of Dimes, because our Greenville team feels very strongly about this organization, as well.

If peer companies and/or startups are considering philanthropic endeavors, what advice would you give them? >> I would advise them to focus on organizations that their teammates are passionate about.   

Who are some of your biggest influences, from philanthropists to leaders to peers, friends, or relatives? >> I believe that everyone you meet along the way impacts you. I have worked with so many great leaders who have shaped my philanthropic spirit, including United’s recently retired CEO, Jimmy Tallent, and our current CEO, Lynn Harton. Both believe strongly in servant leadership.