Arizona Community Foundation and donors distribute record $183 million in 2020 grants, scholarships, and loans

UBU Project

PHOENIX—The Arizona Community Foundation and its donors are pleased to announce grant, scholarship, and loan distributions for the calendar year. Between January 1 and December 31, 2020, a record total of $183,125,928 was awarded from funds of the Arizona Community Foundation and its six statewide Affiliates in Cochise, Flagstaff, the Gila Valley, Sedona, Yavapai County, and Yuma.  

Over $94 million of the year’s total was dedicated to supporting 7,173 small businesses and nonprofit organizations impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. These grants were funded through ACF’s ongoing partnerships with Maricopa County, the Phoenix IDA, and the cities of Phoenix, Peoria, Chandler, Surprise, Gilbert, Yuma, and Tempe.  

The remaining $89 million in grants, scholarships, and nonprofit distributions were awarded in five strategic priority areas: Health Innovations, Community Improvement & Development, Environment & Sustainability, Arts & Culture, and Quality Education.    

Health Innovations: A total of $41 million was awarded to 3,228 organizations and programs in the areas of health, health care, medical research, and a variety of human services. Among the distributions were: $60,000 from the David R. Sellers Foundation to the Arizona Cancer Foundation for Children for general support and $212,500 from the Werner Family Charitable Fund to support Crohn’s Disease research.  

DONOR HIGHLIGHT:The Werner Family Charitable Fund provided $212,500 to the Mayo Clinic in support of Crohn’s disease research. For fund founder Lou Werner, the Mayo Clinic’s work and research to provide better care for those with Crohn’s disease is an important endeavor for both the community and his own family. “Unfortunately, Crohn’s has been in our family for over 50 years and two generations. Our sincere hope is to fuel the development of new treatments for this debilitating disease. We don’t want to see it in the next generation,” said Werner. “And this donation (a fraction of the total) is matched by the Mayo Board so we double the financial power to the doctors and research team. We are grateful to be able to help in this tremendous effort, from which so many people may benefit.”

Community Improvement & Development: A total of $8.8 million was awarded to 811 organizations and programs in this category, which includes housing, community and neighborhood development, financial literacy training, legal assistance, and crime prevention programs. Among the grants awarded were: two grants totaling $22,000 from the L & M Sky Fund to Verde Valley Wheel Fun supporting Sedona Trail Keepers and Mountainview School Bike Park; $6,250 from the Fine Family Fund in support of DigDeep’s Navajo Water Project; and $500 to both Workers Circle and Southern Poverty Law Center from the Dilly Dally Fund to provide general support in response to recent public protests, law enforcement actions, and racial issues occurring in communities across the country.  

DONOR HIGHLIGHT:The Fine Family Fund granted $6,250 to the DigDeep Right to Water Project, designated specifically to the organization’s Navajo Water Project. This project utilizes an Indigenous-led, community-managed utility system to bring hot and cold running water to homes in the Navajo Nation without access to water or sewers. The work spans across Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah and serves more than 250 families. The Fine family made the grant at the annual meeting they host with their family to discuss their chosen grants to community nonprofits. Their children and grandchildren submit their grants to Peter and Rebecca, then present to their entire family in order to gather additional funding on top of the original grant amount. When their daughter Jillian presented the DigDeep Navajo Water Project, many of the family members were moved to also grant to this important cause.

Environment & Sustainability:  A total of $2.3 million was awarded to 440 organizations and programs in the areas of environmental education, renewable resources, conservation, and animal welfare. Among the distributions were: $100,000 to the Desert Botanical Garden for general operating support; $7,500 from The Two Worlds Community Foundation to Lucky Paws Shelter for general support; and $2,500 from the Goddard Family Fund to the Grand Canyon Trust for general use.  

DONOR HIGHLIGHT:The Desert Botanical Garden recently received a $100,000 grant from a donor advised fund housed at ACF. The Desert Botanical Garden has endured as a place of respite for the community throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, ensuring visitors can safely enjoy its beloved nature walks, art exhibitions, and live musical performances. Tahnia McKeever, who serves on the Garden’s Board of Trustees, describes it as a sanctuary for those looking to escape the stress wrought by the public health crisis. “The Desert Botanical Garden offers the opportunity to connect with nature safely, and it just immediately lifts your spirits,” said McKeever. “As the seasons change and bring new life to the Garden, it will remain an important community resource in the face of social isolation and other mental health challenges.”

Arts & Culture: A total of $4.9 million was awarded to 499 artistic and cultural organizations across Arizona. Among the grants were: $27,000 from the MERI Foundation to the Phoenix Symphony Association for general support; $5,000 from For the Love of Conor Foundation to The UBU Project for general support; and $101,599 from the Burton Family Foundation and other funds in support of Rosie’s House capital campaign for its new Digital Creativity Center.  

DONOR HIGHLIGHT: For the Love of Conor Foundation provided a $5,000 grant to The UBU Project, an arts education outreach company specializing in social, emotional arts integration learning. By infusing the performing arts and its unique curriculum into classrooms, The UBU Project aims to end youth suicide, addiction, and bullying. The organization’s residencies across Arizona school districts center on the tenets of hope, resilience, compassion, and empathy to help students use the performing arts as a tool of self-discovery. In response to COVID-19 and the sudden shift to remote learning for many students, The UBU Project offers their curriculum in virtual and distance formats during a time when many students are struggling with new challenges.

Quality Education: During 2020, a total of $18 million was awarded in scholarships and education-related grants. Among the grants were: $25,000 from the Eternal Now Fund to Mindfulness First for general support; $5,000 of unrestricted support from the Nancy and David Weeks Fund to the Literacy Volunteers of Coconino County; and five grants totaling $20,000 from Real Engagement Through Active Philanthropy to Black Mother’s Forum, Inc., Strong Ties, Hustle USA, TigerMountain Foundation, and SOUNDS Academy through the giving circle’s 2020 grant cycle.  

College scholarships accounted for $4.9 million of the year’s total and were awarded for the benefit of 1,646 students pursuing higher education. College scholarships are awarded to Arizona students to attend a wide range of colleges, universities, and technical schools in Arizona and across the United States.   

In addition to these grants, 121 nonprofit organizations with agency endowments managed by the Arizona Community Foundation received their annual distributions, accounting for the remaining $8.3 million distributed during the year.    

The Arizona Community Foundation invested an additional $375,000 through its Affordable Housing Predevelopment Loan Fund. Trellis, UMOM, and ArtSpace received interest-free loans to help jump-start their affordable housing projects.  

The $183 million awarded across all categories represents 15,285 grants, scholarships, loans, and nonprofit distributions, the largest dollar amount and number of grants over any single year in ACF’s 43-year history. Some grants are awarded at the discretion of the Arizona Community Foundation with input from board committees and diverse community panels, while others are awarded through donor advice and municipal authority guidance. All grants are approved or ratified by ACF’s Philanthropic Services Committee whose members include ACF board representatives and other community leaders.  

Established in 1978, the Arizona Community Foundation is a statewide family of charitable funds supported by thousands of Arizonans. With five regional offices serving communities across Arizona, ACF is among the top 25 community foundations in the nation with more than $1 billion in trust and endowment assets, and is certified under the National Standards for U.S. Community Foundations. Since inception, ACF and its affiliates have awarded more than $1 billion in grants, scholarships, and loans to nonprofit organizations, schools, and government agencies. More information is available at