Outside Arizona, Tucson has a reputation for its weather and being a retirement city with a major university. To insiders who live here, the Old Pueblo has a more meaningful reputation. Among its citizenry, Tucson is known as a caring, giving community.
This philanthropic legacy dates back to a time when five local business leaders wanted to expand the pool of charitable givers. By growing the base of donors, they knew there would be more money available to better the community.
Buddy Amos, Jim Burns, Jim Click, Ed Moore and Granger Weil formed the Greater Tucson Area Foundation in 1980. To better reflect its regional reach, it became the Community Foundation for Southern Arizona (CFSA) in 1997.
“Since they were running businesses, they were getting all these solicitations. They saw the need to start a community foundation so there would be somewhere else to go, to promote greater philanthropy,” said Clinton Mabie, president and CEO of CFSA.
Today, the foundation has grown into a charitable clearinghouse that typically awards between $6 million and $8 million a year. On behalf of individuals, families, estate planners, financial advisors, organizations and businesses, CFSA is part advisor, educator, tax consultant, conduit and administrator to those who “gift.”
Mabie characterizes CFSA as a “one-stop shop for managing philanthropy.” The mission of his 10-person staff is to inspire and support donors making a difference.
“This is a complicated business, with a lot of partnering and education. Because we are a public charity, donors get the highest tax deduction possible by law,” Mabie said. “For a professional advisor, we are here to help. For individuals, we are donor-centric, turning their passion, no matter what that is, into investments in the community. That’s our role, to make that happen.”
CFSA makes it happen primarily through a network of affiliates and supporting organizations that are part of the foundation. The Santa Cruz Community Foundation, Oro Valley Community Foundation and Stone Canyon Community Foundation are affiliates.
Supporting organizations maintain their own identity, such as the Thomas R. Brown Family Foundation. They do their own grant-making and receive all the tax benefits. CFSA handles all the administrative services.
Other supporting organizations include the Zuckerman Community Outreach Foundation, Melody S. Robidoux Foundation, Knisely Family Foundation and the Howard V. Moore Foundation.
For donors seeking advice on how to gift or what programs to support, CFSA provides free, confidential counsel through its Center for Planned Giving. The center’s professionals are impartial and will guide and refer “to whatever is best for them. It’s up to the donor, totally customized,” said Mabie.
For example, CFSA is exploring options for a client who wants to help young people in the juvenile justice system. As they “age out” of the system, there are no services to help them transition back into the community.
“This donor wants a program for those people. We convened the community players to see if we can come up with a plan for the donor to get that done,” said Mabie.
Regardless of the cause, a donor’s desires are never judged. At his prior post in Chicago, Mabie had a large endowment “to support the bettering of relationships between cats and dogs.” Another was to support public participation in the sport of curling.
“Those are someone’s passions. Our business is to honor their intent,” he said.
Typically, most foundations oversee funds for more obvious needs like education and basic human services. Over the years, CFSA has helped manage the distribution of some $100 million in charitable donations. It currently administers about 500 funds, some over $1 million with numerous at the $10,000 minimum.
Contact reporter Roger Yohem at firstname.lastname@example.org or(520) 295-4254. Focus on Nonprofits is a regular quarterly feature of Inside Tucson Business. Email suggestions for future articles to email@example.com. The next Focus on Nonprofits column is scheduled to appear in the June 29 issue.