Arizona Community Foundation: Redefining how a community foundation creates impact
Articulate a community foundation’s impact and make the case to donors
A new impact model led to changes in donors’ knowledge, mindsets, and behaviors
By standard measures, the Arizona Community Foundation (ACF) had been successful. Over 10 years, assets under management grew from $400 million to just over $1 billion. Yet assets under management failed to fully capture the story of impact on donors, nonprofits, and their communities. At the same time, ACF, like other community foundations, felt increasing pressure from critics of donor-advised funds (DAFs) on one side, and commercial financial institutions building a massive DAF businesses on the other. ACF needed a better way to tell their story of impact and document that case to donors.
ACF engaged Community Wealth Partners to help create a new model for articulating impact. To begin, we interviewed staff and board members and conducted research to develop an impact model that would show ACF’s vision for building a culture of philanthropy. This model described how the community foundation worked with donors and grantees, causing each party to grow in ways that resulted in greater impact.
Community foundations’ greatest value proposition is that they are deeply rooted in the community and they assist donors in deepening their connection and impact in the community. The community foundation impact model created from this work (see below) has helped other community foundations understand what motivates donors to give and discover ways to support donors in creating greater impact through their giving.
Once the impact model was defined, we tested for evidence of this culture of philanthropy among ACF’s donors and grantees. We interviewed a small sample of donors (50) and probed for changes in their knowledge, mindsets, or giving behaviors since starting their philanthropy with ACF. With grantees, we sought to understand how ACF donors’ support – both financial and non-financial – helped further their missions, while acknowledging that the impact of a single donor’s support can’t normally be measured.