Trustees of Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust awarded a total of $123 million in surprise grants to 71 Arizona nonprofits — the largest single-day grant initiative in Arizona’s history, officials say.
The grants were presented to the 71 awardees throughout the day on Sept. 13, as a complete surprise. Trustees personally met with the CEOs and board chairs of the 71 organizations to thank them for their leadership and work and provide significant capital through grants that will give them strength and runway to help secure their futures.
Despite a tumultuous year due to the global health crisis caused by COVID-19 and economic uncertainty across all sectors, many individuals and institutions with large investments in the stock market experienced extraordinary growth in the value of their holdings, according to a press release.
Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust’s endowment grew by $123 million in the 15 months following the start of the pandemic.
With these two opposing forces at work, and as stewards of the Trust’s founder, Virginia Galvin Piper, Trustees felt compelled to share with the community all of the earnings in one swift action.
“Maricopa County, along with the rest of the country, has suffered dramatically in so many different and unexpected ways,” said Trustee Sharon Harper. “Piper Trust cares deeply about our community and is proud of how community members have stepped up. However, we are still in a desperate situation…those who serve the underserved really have suffered. The arts and culture sector also has experienced significant setbacks due to the pandemic. We must ensure its fortification for the long-term vitality of the community and state.”
The $123 million grants commemoration aligns with the Trust’s increased grantmaking over the past two years in response to the pandemic, and its belief in the power of strengthening the capacity of nonprofits, the press release stated.
In fiscal year 2021 (year ended on March 31, 2021), Piper Trust awarded more than $37 million to community organizations — a significant increase from its historical average of $22 million annually. Many of the 2021 grants were a direct response to the pandemic, the press release stated.
Further, the COVID-response grants were unrestricted awards to provide grantees with full discretion and flexibility to use the funds as they saw fit for their respective organizations. In 2019, to mark its 20th Anniversary, the Trust invested an additional $20 million over five years in organizational capacity building of many grantees, over and above its annual grantmaking of $22 million.
The Now is the Moment Grants Commemoration draws on Virginia Piper’s visionary statement that continues to drive Piper Trust’s actions today — “Managing the stewardship of charitable giving is a moment-to-moment dignified responsibility of a truly high calling in human affairs and human relations.”
“This grants commemoration is similar to a memorable action by Trustees over two decades ago when they made what the Trustees named ‘the Cornerstone Grants’ and awarded $41 million to eight organizations that Mrs. Piper supported over the years,” said Mary Jane Rynd, president and CEO of Piper Trust.
Of the seven Trustees, three are original Trustees appointed by Mrs. Piper, and four have served the Trust in their roles for over half the life of the Trust.
“I believe Virginia would think that this is a momentous time for these organizations,” said Trustee Laura Grafman, who was one of Virginia G. Piper’s best friends. “I feel that so strongly because she loved to share. I can’t help but feel that she would be thrilled and excited, and she would be the first one at the Trust on Monday the 13th — Virginia would say, ‘Thank you for what you do, thank you for everything you bring to this community, and now we have a little surprise for you.’ I can just see Virginia in my mind walking around the Trust with great enthusiasm and with hope for the potential of these grants.”
Grantee selection was shaped by each organization’s respective mission and impact in the community. The grants range in size and were determined by a variety of factors such as an organization’s overall need, budget size, and populations served, the press release stated. Some selections were based on Virginia Piper’s history of giving to organizations as well as her personal values.
The $123 million Now is the Moment Grants Commemoration is a single-day investment in Maricopa County’s nonprofit community. Piper Trust’s annual grantmaking averaging $22 million will continue as usual.
The seven Trustees of Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust are: Jim Bruner, José Cárdenas, Paul Critchfield, Laura Grafman, Sharon Harper, Judy Jolley Mohraz, and Steve Zabilski.
“I think the Trustees understood that if Virginia Piper were alive, she would have seen the needs; she would have seen the good fortune that the investments have made; and she would have said, ‘The time is now,’” said Trustee Judy Jolley Mohraz. “Piper Trust is a place-based foundation and has always worked hard to be partners with our nonprofit organizations, not just funders—and there is a distinction between those two. I think this gift is simply to say to nonprofits and the community they serve, ‘We’re going through this dark time, but we’re going through it together—we’re holding hands as we go down this uncertain path, and we’re here for you.’”
This $123 million Trustee initiative—the Now is the Moment Grants Commemoration—provides grant awards to 71 nonprofit organizations categorized as follows: