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Ten Lessons From the Piper Charitable Trust

December 08, 2009

The Phoenix-based Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust is the largest private foundation in Arizona. Established in 1995 by Virginia G. Piper (whose first husband, Paul Galvin, founded Motorola), the trust works to improve the quality of life for residents of Maricopa County and makes grants in the areas of healthcare and medical research, arts and culture, and education, as well as to faith-based organizations that focus on young children, adolescents, and older adults.

To mark its first decade of grantmaking, the trust, in the latest edition of its Notebook publication, highlights ten lessons it has learned over the last ten years. Here are a few of our favorites:

Accountability begins at home. "The values of of an organization are either lived or not. If a foundation wants grantees to achieve its values of excellence, honest communication, commitment to improvement and learning, stewardship and community collaboration, then the funder must...embrace these qualities as well."

Expect detours and rerouting. "On the way to a particularly difficult goal, strategies or the mix of strategies may need to shift as the full complexity of a problem reveals itself. Tough challenges demand perseverance and constancy."

"Think nationall, act locally" is not just a political strategy. "Borrowing ideas and tools from the greater world and applying them at the grassroots is a tried-and-true strategy. Foundations should not be afraid to replicate best practices and programs from elsewhere to boost impact locally."

Be prepared for great ideas to come from unexpected places. "Good ideas know no boundaries. In philanthropy, great ideas can flow from a lengthy deliberative process or be sparked by a chance meeting."

Foundations have more to offer than grants. "Strategic philanthropy is not merely measured in dollars invested. Strategy embraces rigorous grantmaking defined by measures of success related to long-term community impact. 'Strategic' also means using the many other tools available to create impact and positive change."

What lessons would you add to the list? Feel free to share them in the comments section below.

-- Mitch Nauffts

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