Arizona Community Foundation: Helping Families Create a Legacy

by RaeAnne Marsh

Arizona Community FoundationArizona Community Foundation President and CEO Steven Seleznow credits “the generosity of the people of this community and their thoughtfulness about what they want to give.” Empowering its donors’ philanthropic legacies, the foundation has more than $550 million in charitable assets under its management and expects to give $42 million in grants this year.

Many grants are donor-directed — as this 35-year-old foundation has a preponderance of first-generation donors — and the foundation plays an important role in providing due diligence on the stability of the intended recipient organizations. “It’s hard for the average donor to know that,” Seleznow notes. Discretionary grants are approved by the foundation’s board of directors, who come from every area of the community and have “built their strategy on the leadership of our donors over our 35 years in business,” according to Seleznow.

Because so many people move here as retirees or live here only seasonally, Seleznow says, “What we try to do through our programs is help them see that there are needs here in their part-time or adopted home in the community that they can help as well.” With staff and board members who live and work here and know the community, it is able to show donors theirs can be a really personal experience.



  • Among the 30 largest in the U.S., the Arizona Community Foundation is comprised of 13 affiliate community foundations, providing back-office, financial, investment and marketing support that would be expensive on a small scale, enabling Arizona’s unique communities to engage in community philanthropy.
  • “We provide support systems [people] need to direct funds to the community they care about,” says Steve Seleznow, noting that while “most of what we do stays in Arizona,” they do send checks all over the world.
  • In addition to grant-making, the foundation provides programs and services to the community that include workshops and helping create joint, collaborative “giving circles” to encourage philanthropy in specific circles — such as the Black Philanthropy Initiative and the Latina Giving Circle.
  • The foundation also works with professional advisors such as estate attorneys, wealth advisors and CPAs — whom Seleznow calls “the unsung heroes of philanthropy” — providing educational seminars on issues around estate planning, taxation and more.

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