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Local nonprofits, such as BICAS, are surviving COVID time thanks to a pivot in their work and grants from the Community Foundation for Southern Arizona. 

At the Community Foundation for Southern Arizona, we continue to be amazed by the innovation and resilience of our community’s nonprofit organizations. We have seen youth centers transform into food assistance providers so that the families they typically serve after school won’t go hungry. Nonprofits serving those with special needs have adopted new technology so that learning and socialization can continue. Local food banks have responded to an unprecedented level of need and safety constraints by implementing a drive-through service model that is both efficient and safe. 

With no end in sight for the increased need for services and safety precautions, the ability to think critically and creatively about service delivery has never been more important. CFSA is committed to connecting nonprofits with the resources they need to navigate these difficult times. We realize as a community funder that we must also continue to pivot and innovate in how we are supporting our nonprofit partners.

Partnering with local businesses, foundations and individuals, CFSA has awarded over $2 million in COVID-19 relief funding since March 2020 to support our vital nonprofit partners and the community members they serve. This total includes $233,000 in Nonprofit Event Relief Grants, $300,000 to help minority- and women-owned small businesses and nonprofit organizations access PPP loans, and $25,000 to provide pivot grants for local artists and arts organizations.

The first phase of CFSA’s COVID-19 response focused on providing rapid relief to our nonprofit partners that had lost funding due to canceled fundraising events through our Nonprofit Event Relief Grants and general operating support through our Community Support Grants to nonprofits serving individuals and families impacted by the pandemic. 

More than $1.4 million CFSA’s Community Support Grants have directly supported those most affected by the crisis by providing access to basic needs like food for youth, families and seniors, childcare for medical workers, legal services and rent assistance for low-income community members, diapers for infants and incontinence supplies for seniors, and protective equipment for first responders.

The Center for Healthy Nonprofits, CFSA’s education and training initiative for nonprofit organizations, worked quickly to launch a “Coping With COVID” webinar series to support nonprofits as they pivoted to working remotely and faced the technical and operational challenges involved in that process. Since March 2020, the Center has hosted more than 20 free virtual workshops and peer-to-peer roundtables for hundreds of participants. 

Upcoming events with the Center for Healthy Nonprofits include: Making Good Decisions for Your Organization with Mara G. Aspinall on September 14; Retaining and Cultivating Supporters in Challenging Times with Clyde Kunz on September 16; and Ethics for Nonprofits with Pamela Crim on September 24. 

CFSA’s donor-advised fundholders have also responded to the need in our community with a 48 percent increase in giving between March and August 2020 compared to the same time period in 2019. Grants from our donor-advised fundholders have supported community and nonprofit needs from education to the environment, affordable housing to mental health services, and animal welfare to the arts.

In May 2020, we reached out to our nonprofit partners to better understand their anticipated short- and long-term needs in response to COVID-19. Nonprofits shared that continued grant funding and technical assistance were top priorities. Nineteen percent of nonprofits cited concerns about how to address the increased demand for services, and 35 percent shared that they were working to adapt their business model to serve clients in a socially distant reality with fewer staff members and limited revenue. The results of that survey helped shape the strategies for the second phase of CFSA’s COVID-19 response.

This second phase emphasizes a three-pronged approach to supporting nonprofits in Southern Arizona: continued COVID-focused grantmaking through our COVID-19 Community Support Grants, increased capacity-building support through strategic workshops, webinars, and peer-to-peer groups through CFSA’s Center for Healthy Nonprofits, and technical assistance at scale through existing and new partnerships.

Working in partnership with Mayor Regina Romero and Council, CFSA is also administering the application process and distribution of We Are One | Somos Uno Resiliency Fund grants to nonprofits in the City of Tucson and the City of South Tucson funded from a private $500,000 donation and $500,000 in CARES Act funding. This collaboration has greatly increased CFSA’s capacity to continue supporting nonprofits in the months ahead.

Providing the Catchafire program at scale to Southern Arizona’s nonprofits offers them significant operational support through a cadre of skilled virtual volunteers. This support is especially meaningful in a time when most nonprofits must reduce expenditures on marketing, fundraising and professional development to continue providing essential client services. In year one, 99 local nonprofits completed more than $1.6 million in projects through their Catchafire memberships. This year, CFSA expanded the Catchafire Grant program to provide 500 nonprofits with unlimited, expert volunteer assistance with everything from HR guidance to building new a website or even pivoting their fundraising program to use new online tools.

To provide additional technical assistance, CFSA has established strategic partnerships with the Eller College of Management and the College of Architecture, Planning, and Landscape Architecture at the University of Arizona. The partnership with the College of Architecture will specifically address the challenges of safely reopening childcare centers. The collaboration with the Eller College of Management will provide short-term, highly relevant courses to nonprofit professionals, consulting for specific organizational projects, and connections to Eller’s network of alumni volunteers.

We realize the need is immense in our community, both for our nonprofit partners and the individuals and families they continue to serve. In addition to our COVID-19 Community Support Grants, which continue to be accepted and funded on a rolling basis, CFSA also continues to stay the course with regular grantmaking activities offering various opportunities through both donor advised and initiative grantmaking. Please visit for additional information.


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

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