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Arizona Philanthropy Groups Merge

The Alliance of Arizona Nonprofits and Arizona Grantmakers Forum have merged to form a nearly 1,100-member collaborative entity — believed to be only the fourth such formal merger of nonprofit and philanthropic organizations in the U.S.

Other previously merged nonprofit and grantmaking organizations are Forefront in Chicago, Ill., the Mississippi Alliance of Nonprofits and Philanthropy in Jackson, MS., and Groundworks New Mexico in Albuquerque, NM.  

Alliance of Arizona Nonprofits Chief Executive Officer Kristen Merrifield, who will lead the combined organization, said the merger was approved this week by both boards of directors after nearly two years of discussion and planning for the integration.

“By merging and integrating the two we are moving beyond the transactional to the transformative,” Merrifield said in an interview.

The merged organizations — whose boards of directors have been combined to create one 25-member board — will operate for the immediate future under the name Alliance of Arizona Nonprofits while plans to rename and rebrand the organization are underway.  

Laurie Liles, now former president and CEO of the 77-member Arizona Grantmakers Forum, will become chief public policy officer for the Alliance and will continue while the integration progresses to provide support to grantmaking members. 

Liles said the merger is unusual – only the fourth nationwide – and that leaders of the Mississippi, Illinois and New Mexico combined grantmaking and nonprofit organizations all were consulted to describe their processes. Merrifield called nonprofits and philanthropy “two sides of the same coin,” and both she and Liles said the merger is expected to strengthen both sides through conversations about unmet needs and causes and advancing diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in the sector.   

“We’ve brought together funders and nonprofits to help us co-create this vision that will give us the opportunity to focus on problem-solving in the sector beyond the grantmaking cycle,” Liles said. “The merger supplies unlimited opportunities for those conversations.”

The merger idea started to gain steam more than two years ago at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic when the Alliance and the Forum worked collaboratively on identifying emergency funding needs, including shifts from programmatic funding to general operating needs, Liles and Merrifield said.

While each organization was involved in advocacy efforts, neither had a staff position specifically dedicated to public policy work but Liles will now assume that role, and staff members employed by both organizations are expected to be retained.

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