Insights from the Inside: Arizona’s Piper Trust

We recently profiled a place-based funder in our Southwest section, the Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust, which places a high priority on nonprofits in Phoenix and Maricopa County, Arizona.

Read: IP’s Profile of the Virginia G. Piper Trust

A recent chat with the trust’s Director or Communications/External Relations, Karen Leland, has revealed some more noteworthy details about what the trust is looking for in new grantees and where its grantmaking is headed. Here are a couple key pieces of information that Arizona nonprofits should be aware of.

“Communities Matter” is the Trust’s Theory of Change

With a primary focus on the needs of children and older adults, the trust supports competitive grants initiated by nonprofits serving Maricopa County, internally-driven initiatives, collaborative funding partnerships, and strengthening nonprofits. As Leland explained, Piper Trust’s competitive grants support programming, capital projects, and designated operating expenses. Typically nonprofit organizations receive one grant at a time with one year in between grants.

Staff members and trustees also identify targeted initiatives, which oftentimes bring national program models to Maricopa County or help local nonprofits collaborate with each other. One example includes a $1+ million, five-year grant to Aspire to create substantive opportunities for youth workers to engage in intensive and ongoing professional development. Another $1.65 million five-year grant was awarded to create Experience Matters, a nonprofit that connects the skills and talents of experienced adults age 50+ with the diverse needs of community organizations.

A good example of one of the trust’s collaborative partnerships is Read On Arizona, a statewide, public/private partnership of agencies, philanthropic organizations, and community stakeholders that aims to improve language and literacy outcomes for Arizona’s children from birth through age eight over the next decade. Piper Trust nonprofit capacity building grantees typically receive leadership development, trainings, and technical assistance to become more effective leaders in their fields.

The Trust is Looking for New Grantees

The approachable Piper Trust has an open-door policy and is welcoming to new grantees. Trust grantees are solution-oriented, innovative, and dedicated to the Maricopa County community. Leland shared that there are four fundamental areas that the Board and staff take into account when considering a grant:

  • Impact: Identifying the need and how it will be addressed.
  • Effectiveness: Demonstrating the value and efficacy of the approach and ability to achieve intended outcomes.
  • Feasibility: Proving practicability in carrying out the work.
  • Sustainability: Practicing fiscal responsibility and having a thoughtful, realistic plan for what happens after the grant.

Another trait that Piper Trust grantees share is openness to collaboration. For example, the trust’s new leader, Dr. Susan M. Pepin is working to establish a public/private initiative to ensure all Arizona’s children receive vision screening and necessary follow-up care.

“Collective brainpower is a must to move social purpose—collaboration is the way to truly hit social change and impact,” said Marilee Dal Pra, Piper Trust’s Vice President of Programs.