The Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust has awarded a total of $123 million in surprise grants to 71 Arizona nonprofits—the largest single-day grant initiative in Arizona’s history.
The grants were presented to the 71 awardees throughout the day on September 13, 2021—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.
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.
Trustee Sharon Harper, said: “Maricopa County, along with the rest of the country, has suffered dramatically in so many different and unexpected ways. 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 under-served 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 grant’s commemoration aligns with the Trust’s increased grant-making over the past two years in response to the pandemic, and its belief in the power of strengthening the capacity of nonprofits. 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. 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 grant-making 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.”
Mary Jane Rynd, president and CEO of Piper Trust, said: “This grant’s 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.”
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.
Trustee Laura Grafman, who was one of Virginia G. Piper’s best friends, said: “I believe Virginia would think that this is a momentous time for these organizations. 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. 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.