The nonprofit sector is not immune to mergers and acquisitions. And, more often than not, the nonprofit sector is seeing this occur when organizations envision a stronger, cohesive voice and improved outcomes by bringing existing organizations together.
Arizona continues to see more organizations finding this to be true including the Alliance of Arizona Nonprofits and Arizona Grantmakers Forum who just announced their merger on August 1. Many other organizations are finding themselves in new types of partnership too.
Education Forward Arizona is one of those recent success stories.
Public opinion polls have indicated for several years that education is the top priority for the citizens of Arizona, and yet Arizonans haven’t always agreed on how to achieve the quality education system they say they want. Despite the collective urgency for meaningful education improvement, Arizonans have tolerated an education system that has underperformed — one that has denied educational, and thus economic, opportunity to many of our citizens. That has, in turn, hampered our state’s growth and has tarnished our reputation.
Frustrated with the pace of change and with an often fractured and inadequate response to education improvement, community leaders came together for 15 months — during the pandemic — to outline the strategic direction of a more robust education advocacy organization. That community planning process was supported by Arizona Community Foundation, Helios Education Foundation and Pharos Foundation.
During that period, three entities — Achieve60AZ, College Success Arizona and Expect More Arizona — came together to outline how to bring the best parts of each of their organizations together in ways that could lead to greater impact and efficiency.
Putting their own brands aside, they created a new, more robust organization. By pooling their resources and combining teams, funders and Boards, Education Forward Arizona emerged in August of 2021 to address collective community aspirations to:
- Create a cohesive case for education and how it benefits all Arizonans,
- Align knowledge and interests to create more effective approaches and increase accountability, and
- Build public and political will for dramatic education improvement.
Under the leadership of President and CEO Rich Nickel, this new organization aims to change the way people think about and support education as the key to improving the economy and the quality of life in Arizona.
“The launch of Education Forward Arizona was a turning point for education in our state,” said Vince Roig, chair of Education Forward Arizona’s board of directors. “Education and the economy are inextricably linked. To get where we want to go, we need every student to thrive. As a state, we must prioritize supporting our underserved students.”
With support from more than 50 partners from across the state from the education, business, philanthropic, community and nonprofit communities, Education Forward Arizona’s launch demonstrated how the organization sees its mission being achieved — with all sectors and stakeholders working together to build the public and political will needed to support educational improvements.
In its first year, Education Forward Arizona has been successful in advocating for education policies that advance education equity, as well as growing its programs serving primarily low-income and first-generation students to help them reach and complete a postsecondary education.
Highlights from Education Forward Arizona’s first year along with a look ahead to what’s next for the organization can be found at EducationForwardArizona.org.
Education Forward Arizona is a nonprofit organization created to change the way people think about and support education as the key driver to improving the economy and quality of life in Arizona. The organization’s work includes providing scholarships and innovative programs to students and advocating for policies and funding that move the Achieve60AZ postsecondary attainment goal and other Arizona Education Progress Meter goals forward. Learn more at EducationForwardArizona.org.
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