Pioneering Philanthropy in Arizona with Amy Armstrong

SVPI 07/09/2024
Affiliate Spotlight

Amy Armstrong, SVP Arizona

Meet Amy Armstrong, the CEO of SVP Arizona, where she has been a partner for 15 years. As a dedicated philanthropist, Amy founded Next Generation Philanthropists and Support My Club, two Arizona-based nonprofit organizations. She also serves as the Director and Grant Coordinator for the Kiita Foundation and the Grant Advisor of the Armstrong Family Foundation. Amy’s commitment to community extends to various boards and governance committees, including her work with Arizona State University students from foster care backgrounds. We sat down with Amy to discuss the growth of SVP Arizona.

Can you tell us about SVP Arizona and its history?

SVP Arizona has been around for quite a while – we’re celebrating our 25th anniversary this year! We were the second affiliate in SVPI’s network after Seattle started, so our founders like to say we were the “first followers.” I’ve been a partner for 15 years and took over as CEO in late 2019, just before COVID hit.

We’ve gone through different ebbs and flows over the years. About five years ago, we faced some challenges when our longtime leader retired and had to make some staffing changes. We almost went away at one point, but some amazing board members stepped in and said, “We want to fight for this.” At our lowest point, we only had 30 partners. Now, I’m proud to say we’re up to 112 partners and have really regrown.

We’re traditionally a referral organization, and we want our partnership to reflect more of the city we serve, ensuring that the people making grant-making decisions represent a wider variety of who we have in our town. So we’ve focused on diversity in many ways: age, gender, racial, and sector diversity. 

We now have social workers in the partnership, and the questions they ask during grantmaking are vastly different from what a lawyer would ask. And our most recent investee selection committee was the largest in SVP Arizona’s history, with more than half of the committee members representing people of color, a huge improvement from the single-digit percentages we used to see.

How do you support the nonprofits you work with?

We follow a traditional SVP model with some unique twists. Our investees typically engage in a five-year cycle. We provide them with grants, partner time, and talent. We usually have two to three lead partners with each of our full-time investees, and we plug in different people based on different projects.

Our focus is on making children successful through educational opportunities, safety and support, and health and wellness. Some of our current investees include Mindfulness First, Homeless Youth Connection, Camp Catanese, and Treasures 4 Teachers.

We’ve also introduced a “Refuel” program. Since we’ve been around for 25 years, we have an extensive portfolio of past investees. The Refuel initiative allows us to revisit and invite organizations that’ve gone through our full program in the past for a one-year refresh. This might be to support an ED change, help with a new program, or address other specific needs.

Congratulations on being recently awarded a grant from Fidelity Charitable?! Please tell us more about your plans for the funding.

The Fidelity Charitable Catalyst Fund is funding a new program called the Brain Trust. SVP Boulder County inspired this idea, which is a way to engage more of our partners while also helping additional nonprofits.

We’re creating six different Brain Trusts focused on areas like technology implementation, strategic planning with an entrepreneurial lens, and team and culture building. Each Brain Trust will have five to six partners. We’ll open applications for nonprofits to receive help on short-term projects (one to four months) in these areas.

The grant is funding half of a new three-year position to manage this program. It’s a game-changer for us, allowing us to engage more partners and serve more nonprofits in our community.

What exciting things are coming up for SVP Arizona in the not-too-distant future? 

We’re thrilled to host the Fidelity Charitable Catalyst Fund board meeting in October, along with the Arizona Community Foundation. We’ll highlight one of our investees, Treasures 4 Teachers, as a field trip and site visit. Our relationship with Treasures 4 Teachers perfectly exemplifies how our partners work with nonprofits, showcasing a mix of experienced partners, new philanthropists, and young professionals all working together on diverse projects.

We’re also excited about our growing team! We’ll finally have a full staff, which is fantastic, considering we went from just me to a team that can truly support our 112 partners and multiple programs. It’s a testament to our growth and our impact in Arizona.

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