Under financial pressure to meet emerging needs in their local communities, nonprofits in Arizona balance immediate support with their long-term missions. To help those struggling with food insecurity, support childhood education and provide communities with essentials such as medicine, many nonprofits are getting help from community organizations like the Arizona Community Foundation (ACF), which in 2020 received a $500,000 grant from Bank of America. The ACF applied that grant to the Arizona COVID-19 Community Response Fund, which supported nonprofits working to offset the impact of the coronavirus on local communities.
Steve Seleznow, who recently retired as president and CEO of the ACF, discussed the foundation’s support for hundreds of nonprofits throughout Arizona in the early days of the pandemic, what prior experience taught him about fostering a long-term recovery, and how public- and private-sector collaboration is essential to provide help to those in need.
Where are you seeing the most need in Arizona?
Many of the state’s nonprofits are helping people with health- and elder-care needs, addressing food insecurity, and providing education and housing services, to name a few. The lines at the food banks have been unprecedented, and more and more people are going without a paycheck. Meanwhile, many of our nonprofits are running out of the capital they need to provide critical help.
How do you balance competing needs for assistance?
We have to think about what we can do now and what we need to do in the longer term. There’s a need to get money to the community quickly. But it’s also essential to hold back funds for the recovery, which may be even more expensive and more difficult.
Several years ago, a wildfire devastated the small town of Yarnell. The need to respond right away was obvious. But later, many people in Yarnell found that their insurance policies didn’t cover the full cost of replacing their homes. Parts of the town’s infrastructure had also been destroyed. By reserving some funds, we were able to help fill those needs.
We’re seeing the same thing today. We’ve distributed grants to nearly 500 nonprofits, but we know the coming recovery phase may require an even larger response.
How do community foundations help?
Community foundations help people realize their charitable goals, and through their own vision invest in the things that are important to them. People give through us. They don’t give to us.