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Opinions, thoughts and ideas from the leaders of the Arizona Community Foundation, Arizona’s largest statewide philanthropic grantmaker.


A culture of “yes”
A culture of “yes”

SHELLEY COHN
ACF Board Member and Arts Advocate

I am proud to be a board member of the Arizona Community Foundation because we are a dynamic learning organization committed to serving Arizona’s changing and diverse communities and increasing philanthropy in Arizona. We are not satisfied to accept what we have done in the past but rather are forward thinking and collaborative in anticipating the needs and opportunities of the future.

I often reflect on how fortunate I am to be a part of this kind of organization where I can contribute and help influence ACF’s mission for the future.

We are a complicated organization where we are the stewards of many different kinds of funds: we have more than 700 donor advisors, 24 supporting organizations, 32 board members and thousands of nonprofits across Arizona seeking support.

We seek to customize our interactions with each donor to accomplish their philanthropic goals and benefit the community in important ways. Some donors are more traditional in their philanthropic giving, others more entrepreneurial; some have local interests; others national and international; some are focused on a particular area of support, whether it be social service, education, environment or the arts, and others are concerned globally about the general well-being of our communities.

As donors come to us with a variety of needs, interests and priorities, we want to be both informed and responsive to the widest range of donor intentions. We have banned the vocabulary that “we don’t do it that way,” or “we can’t or won’t do what you want” to an approach where we speak with the donor and try to find strategies to help them accomplish their goals. We listen, do research with other community foundations and try to find solutions appropriate to the donor, the state and federal laws governing us and the mission of ACF.

Beyond making upwards of $45 million in grants and scholarships annually and growing Arizona’s permanent endowments to meet current and future needs, ACF has developed several new approaches to improving lives in Arizona in recent years:

  • Impact investing, also known as program-related investing, in which philanthropic capital is used to make flexible, low-interest loans to nonprofit projects that support low-income housing, charter school development and healthcare. Unlike grants, loans are repaid to the Foundation with a small amount of interest, and then re-loaned to new projects.
  • An innovation prize to attract new and innovative thinking to solve the most pressing problems in our state.
  • A School Tuition Organization to provide private school scholarships and additional supports to low-income, disabled, and foster care students in Kindergarten through 12th grades. This initiative partners with businesses that want to support scholarships through an effective and seamless mechanism, and channels state tax credit policy to incentivize giving.
  • A new fund that will make investments in start-up companies as well as grants to encourage entrepreneurial activities, driving economic development and creating a strong ecosystem of young, innovative business leaders.
  • New centers for philanthropy including the Pakis Center for Business Philanthropy, Jerry Colangelo Center for Sports Philanthropy and the Center for LGBTQ Philanthropy, plus giving circles in the Latino, Black and Asian-American communities that engage and energize Arizonans around a shared set of goals and priorities.

These are just a few of the many innovative ways your community foundation is working to improve the quality of life here, and providing pathways for individuals and businesses to join in our efforts. I encourage you to come meet us and test out our philosophy to see if we indeed are walking our talk.

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