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Community Foundation of Southern Arizona staff engaged in a capacity building workshop at the Community Foundation Campus. 

Since 1980, the Community Foundation for Southern Arizona has been a trusted philanthropic partner helping hundreds of individuals, families and businesses by investing nearly $200 million in nonprofits to create a stronger community.

To measurably affect change and improve the quality of life in Southern Arizona, nonprofits need flexible working capital to maximize their impact. CFSA has joined other national foundations in focusing on providing general operating support to increase the capacity and strength of nonprofit organizations, helping direct their energy to fulfill their mission.

In 2016, CFSA changed its grant-making strategy to achieve greater impact by offering larger, general operating grants. We knew from experience—our own and that of other forward-looking foundations—that providing general operating support can quicken the arc of change, creating better results in less time and often at a lower cost.

Numerous leaders in the field have identified unrestricted funding as a best practice, including the Ford Foundation, the Nonprofit Finance Fund, the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, the Center for Effective Philanthropy and Grantmakers for Effective Organizations. Despite this support and research that demonstrates the increased efficacy and ROI of general operating support grants, this funding strategy is not yet the norm. 

The benefits offered by general operating support are numerous. General operating support gives nonprofit organizations the flexibility to direct their spending where it is needed; the support enables nonprofits to build the strong and sustainable infrastructure necessary to run effective programs. General operating support also fosters innovation and risk-taking, allowing nonprofits to take advantage of new opportunities as they arise. In addition, this type of grantmaking helps to reduce the power imbalance between grantmaker and grantee, bringing new transparency and trust to the relationship.

After research and following the best practice recommendations of other foundations, CFSA developed its CORE grant program to provide unrestricted general operating support to nonprofits throughout Southern Arizona. As the name suggests, CORE grants can be used to pay for fundamental needs, including administrative costs, 

program expenses, salaries and even the rent. The first round of CORE grants was completed in 2018, with ten high impact nonprofits each receiving $30,000 in unrestricted funding. 

In June, CFSA awarded $500,000 in unrestricted funding in the second round of CORE grants—a 67 percent increase from the first year. 

This year’s grant recipients include twenty-three high impact nonprofits from Pima, Santa Cruz, Yuma and Cochise counties: Adult Literacy Plus of Southwest Arizona; Amerind Foundation, Inc.; Boys and Girls Club of Santa Cruz County, Inc.; Campesinos Sin Fronteras; Community Home Repair Projects of Arizona; Construyendo Circulos de Paz/Circles of Peace; Diaper Bank of Southern Arizona; Higher Ground; Imago Dei Middle School; Integrative Touch for Kids; International Sonoran Desert Alliance; Jewish History Museum; Job Path, Inc.; Lori’s Place – Cochise Family Advocacy Center; Make Way for Books; Native American; Advancement Foundation; Sahuarita Food Bank; Sister Jose Women’s Center; Sky Island Alliance; Tu Nidito; Tucson Girls Chorus; UA Center for Recruitment and Retention of Math Teachers; and Volunteer Interfaith Caregiver Program.

In addition to CORE grants, CFSA offers Southern Arizona nonprofits further support through free educational programming and bi-monthly networking events at the Community Foundation Campus. The “Ask an Expert” series provides nonprofit professionals and leadership volunteers with expert training and resources on topics like board development, human resource management and marketing. Since the workshop series launched on May 1, more than 110 nonprofit professionals and leaders have participated. 

Upcoming workshops include “Everything You’ve Ever Wanted to Know about Human Resources” with Allison Vaillancourt, Ph.D., Aug. 21; “Creating Great Retreats” with Laura Alexander and Jenny Carrillo, Sept. 4; and “So You Think You Want to be a CEO?” with Patti Caldwell, Sept. 18. All workshops run from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

To provide local nonprofits with additional resources, CFSA launched a new partnership this summer with Catchafire, a certified B-Corp that connects professionally-skilled volunteers nationwide with nonprofits to improve their infrastructure and increase their organizational capacity. Catchafire’s community of vetted volunteers provides nonprofits professional assistance with over 120 types of projects, ranging from short-term graphic design projects like creating a new brochure to long-term initiatives such as leadership coaching.

This month, CFSA granted Catchafire memberships to 100 nonprofit organizations in southern Arizona. 

As CFSA approaches its 40th anniversary, we remain committed to increasing the availability of general operating support and other organizational development resources to nonprofit organizations in Southern Arizona. We are pleased to announce that beginning in September a new peer-to-peer Human Resources Roundtable will be offered through the Community Foundation Campus.  This roundtable will bring together nonprofit professionals who manage human resources functions and provide a supportive environment to share their diverse knowledge and experiences with their local counterparts.

We invite you to visit the Community Foundation Campus and learn more online at and  

Kelly Huber is the Director of Community Investments at the Community Foundation for Southern Arizona.