CFSA In The Community: Beyond the Grant Application

From our competitive grant rounds and donor-advised funds to field-of-interest funds and funds designated to support specific organizations in perpetuity, CFSA continues to help build a thriving Southern Arizona through philanthropy.  While CFSA is proud of the funding we are able to provide to our outstanding nonprofit partners, we also recognize that as a Community Foundation, we have the capability to do much more.  

Each month, CFSA’s Community Impact (CI) department orchestrates site visits to nonprofits in Southern Arizona. These nonprofits, who may or may not have received grant funding from CFSA, open their doors to CFSA staff and board members for a tour of their facility and to see their mission in action. The purpose of CFSA’s site visits is to build relationships with our nonprofit partners and reinforce our position as an accessible resource for the Southern Arizona community.  

Site visits allow CFSA to go beyond the grant application. Sitting at a desk and reading a grant application is one thing, but it’s a completely different experience to see a nonprofit’s mission in action.

Enedina Miller, Program Manager for CFSA’s CI team, explained, “We’re not just an email. I know people know my name, but they don’t always get to see me. It’s really nice to see people and programs in action and to know that we’re doing our best to build trust and deeper relationships by being present and available to our partners.”

“It goes both ways in terms of helping to reestablish a mainly digital relationship, and it really brings the work to life,” shared Program Manager Natalia Gabrielsen.  

Another key benefit of CFSA site visits is the opportunity to see the full scope of what the nonprofit needs and is currently working on with its stakeholders. CFSA recognizes that every organization is unique and has different needs. Gabrielsen continued, “We want to know how we can be more useful to them as their funding partners and ensure that we understand what they’re going through, what needs they have, and how we can better address those needs.”

For example, site visits in 2023 and 2022 gave CFSA insight into a common issue many nonprofits face: the grant writing process can be complicated and difficult to navigate. Hearing this feedback, CFSA’s CI team went right to work to restructure its own application process, making it less burdensome and more accessible to nonprofits.  

The CI team does not have any direct influence on grant selections (that responsibility sits with our community grant selection committees), and it’s important to the CI team that they are able to effect change in the processes and resources they can control. 

“In addition,” Miller explained, “we have to be good stewards for our donors as well. Staying up-to-date with our nonprofit partners allows us to guide our donors to where their support is best aligned with their own philanthropic aspirations. Establishing a presence in the community and continuously building these relationships is one way we can help Southern Arizona thrive through philanthropy.”

Click here to learn more about our October 2023 site visits.  

Facts & Questions

How does CFSA schedule site visits?

We try to circulate site visits based on how recently we have visited if we have visited at all, and what the needs are of the organization. Collaborating busy schedules of multiple parties can be a challenge sometimes, so we like to set up site visits about a month out if possible. 

If your organization is interested in a visit from CFSA, reach out to our CI team at Let us know if you would like to schedule a site visit and we will get you on the calendar!

Do you have to be a current CFSA grantee in order to schedule a site visit?

No! We conduct site visits with previous grantees, those who may have applied but have not been awarded a CFSA grant, and those whom we have yet to help fund.

Do you have to reside within a specific county in order to schedule a site visit?

Our mission is to support all of Southern Arizona. As long as the organization is south of the Gila River, we are happy to schedule a visit. This includes Cochise, Greenlee, Graham, Pima, Pinal, Santa Cruz, and Yuma.

Is there a standard agenda for site visits?

Yes and no. Typically, site visits consist of a tour of an organization’s office space and/or the facility where the work is happening. We love to see the mission in action, how it’s being done, and who is doing it.

During our visits, we also make a point to discuss the current and future needs of the organization and where our role can fit in to help. Our CI team has extensive knowledge of recourses, funding opportunities, and ideas they are able to pull together and help make connections for our nonprofit partners. We will usually try to weave this conversation into the visit at the end.

However, we recognize that every organization is uniquely different with uniquely different needs, so every site visit may not look or operate the same. In the initial steps of scheduling a site visit, we verify all visit details with our hosts prior to our arrival.

Who from CFSA conducts a site visit?

Though we typically like for our whole CI team to be present for a site visit, sometimes we will have representatives from our philanthropy team, marketing team, and even a Board Member or two join us. However, outside of the CI team, it mostly comes down to calendar availability that determines who exactly you will meet from CFSA during a site visit.

For nonprofits that handle sensitive or difficult issues, are site visits conducted differently?

Our top priority is to respect the work that’s being done. However it is best for us to make the connection and build that relationship with the organization, we want to respect any sort of boundaries that might be in place surrounding sensitive topic areas. 

For example, we love being able to take pictures and videos during our visits, so share them with our staff and donors. However, we understand that there are certain situations and missions where this action is inappropriate.

The purpose of these visits is to build personable relationships with our nonprofit partners first and foremost. We are glad to honor any concerns or preferences they may have.

What do you do to follow up with nonprofits after a site visit?

We like to follow up with an email, especially listing resources we may have touched on during our visit. If we did take pictures, we like to send those over as well. Our follow-up is mainly to ensure our accessibility. The site visit is a point of establishing connection and communication so we’re always open to receiving calls and emails from our hosts moving forward. 

How do you use equity and inclusion principles when conducting site visits?

When developing the grant application process, we take into serious consideration who these processes impact and how accessible they are. Scheduling site visits and taking the time to go and meet potential applicants is a way we can ensure the processes are reaching their intended audience.

Because we are often the ones reaching out to organizations to schedule site visits, being highly aware of who is applying for our grants, the wide range of missions, and the proximity to Pima County (where CFSA’s office is located), the organizations are located is important. We see site visits as an opportunity for an educational moment as opposed to a let us show you’ moment. We find it is a great place to start as it helps foster more trust and transparency between us as the funder and our partnering organizations.

Take it from Program Manager Natalia Gabrielsen: “We’re reaching a broad spectrum of a range of folks and making sure that there’s equity in the distribution of where we’re spending our time and our team’s resources in terms of getting that communication and connection to them.”