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Grantmaker of the Year Award

Do you know a government agency, private foundation or community grantor that is doing outstanding things for your community and/or in the grants profession? Consider nominating them for the 2020 Grantmaker of the Year Award! (opening in May 2020)


  • Nominate Federal, state, and local agencies in the Public Category
  • Family, community and corporate foundations qualify for nominations under the Private Category

Formerly known as the GPA Pioneer Award, the Grantmaker of the Year Award recognizes public and private funders that have improved the way grant professionals do their work and acknowledges outstanding contributions to the field of grantsmanship. Agencies profiled in the top-scoring applications this year will also participate in an "virtual site visit" from review committee members.

The awards will be presented at the GPA Annual Conference in Washington, DC in November 2019.

Nominations are open to members and non-members. 

2019 Nominations are closed!

2019 Award Recipients

The winner of the 2019 GPA Grantmaker of the Year Award - Private Sector:
Mary's Pence - St. Paul, MN

Mary’s Pence was founded by women to support women on the margins at a time when women-led social justice projects were overlooked and under-funded. More than 30 years later, an all-woman board and staff – along with the women, men, churches, and religious congregations who support Mary’s Pence – continue the still necessary work of our founders by providing funding and holistic support to women working for justice in Central America, Mexico, the United States and Canada. Mary’s Pence invests in women across the Americas by funding community initiatives and fostering collaborations to create social change.

Mary’s Pence’s focus is on supporting women-led social justice missions with funding and resources to build long term systemic change. Mary’s Pence seeks to fund small nonprofits that have a vision for making real change, and seek to support that vision with funding and support like trainings and mentorships. As a grantor, Mary’s Pence is highly responsive and holistic in their approach, a refreshing change from the “hands off” grant style that so many grantors take. Utilizing a realistic, accessible application and reporting process that communicates needs and ideas without overtaxing the applicants, Mary’s Pence can make a large impact on small nonprofits as they develop their programming and make real change in the world.

They also believe in connections and community building, and as such, encourage their grantees to connect with one another, support one another, and share ideas and resources. They build their relationships on trust and require minimal reporting, but they are so hands on through their support and genuine interest in the work their grantees are doing that they are well informed of where their funding is going. Mary’s Pence is the epitome of what grantmaking should be, investing holistically with well rounded support that includes more than just monetary assistance.

Nominated by: Meg Eubank

The winner of the 2019 GPA Grantmaker of the Year Award - Public Sector:
South Carolina Arts Commission - Columbia, SC

On June 7, 1967, Governor Robert E. McNair signed legislation that established the South Carolina Arts Commission, an autonomous state agency charged with guiding the development of the arts. For 50 years, the agency has worked to build a thriving arts environment that benefits all South Carolinians, regardless of their circumstances or where they live. With a commitment to excellence across the spectrum of our state’s cultures and forms of expression, the South Carolina Arts Commission pursues its public charge to develop a thriving arts environment, which is essential to quality of life, education, and economic vitality for all South Carolinians.

SC Arts Commission provides grants to a variety of stakeholders: individual artists, arts organizations, and community organizations partnering with artists. Grantees are often individuals or small organizations with agents that are new to grants. Even within large school districts, arts teachers have limited grant experience.

SC Arts Commission provides 1:1 technical support throughout the grant making and grant management process. They are readily available by phone and email which is unusual for a government organization. And, they develop relationships with potential and current grantees. SC Arts Commission has a small staff, yet still makes the time to talk to potential and current grantees often.

SC Arts Commission recently streamlined their grant applications to increase accessibility for novice applicants. And, they revamped their website and their online grant system to create a more user-friendly and intuitive experience for grantees (and the general public).

Artists are not typically grant professionals. SC Arts Commission meets potential grantees where they are without compromising accountability.

Nominated by: Alicia Kokkinis

Previous Award Recipients

2018 Pioneer Award Recipients

The winner of the 2018 GPA Local Pioneer Award:
The Joyce Foundation - Chicago, IL

The Joyce Foundation provided an initial investment in the Great Lakes College and Career Pathways Partnership, which aims to scale high-quality college and career pathways to increase the number of high school students earning postsecondary credentials with economic value. The funding they provided has been instrumental in providing opportunities for our students, but it has also allowed educators to have meaningful professional development opportunities with the other grantees, share out our work, problem solve together, and form lasting relationships. 

They are a very forward-thinking foundation that provides grantees flexibility to accomplish their desired outcomes and are directly involved in helping
create partnerships between their grantees to develop strong networks and professional learning communities. Through their grantmaking our organization not only has developed important connections that has helped us achieve our grant goals, we have been able to exceed what we initially desired to accomplish and have received national recognition for the work. They truly partner with us and the other organizations they support, and it has been an
incredibly meaningful experience for me to be a part of this both professionally and personally.

Nominator: Marcella Zipp

The winner of the 2018 GPA International Pioneer Award:
The Healing Trust - Nashville, TN

The Healing Trust is a leader in grant-making in the Middle Tennessee region. Formed in 2002, the Trust has since given more than $79 million in grants. Their mission is the sacred work of fostering healing and wholeness for vulnerable populations through strategic investing, philanthropy, and advocacy.

The Trust is a tremendous partner with non-profits, providing funds to further their work along with support and resources to improve the way that work is accomplished. They regularly host trainings regarding their grant programs and processes and also offer one-on-one time with their program officers. Beyond their own grant-making, they meet regularly with other funders in the community, partnering on initiatives that impact our sector such as education and technical assistance for mitigating Adverse Childhood Experiences and implementing Collective Impact. They have financially supported pilot projects on both of these topics. They are also strong proponents for self-care among non-profit professionals, funding retreats, hosting workshops, and providing sabbatical grants.

Nominators: Audra Davis and Bill Smith


2017 Pioneer Award Recipients

The winner of the 2017 GPA Local Pioneer Award:
Ellen Browning Scripps Foundation

This year’s local recipient is the Ellen Browning Scripps Foundation in La Jolla, California.
The Ellen Browning Scripps Foundation is a renowned and well-known grantmaker throughout San Diego and the philanthropic community. The power of the organization’s name and legend of their first major donor continue to stimulate philanthropic gifts to organizations and non-profits in San Diego County. Recent grants from this Foundation to San Diego Zoo Global helped leverage additional matching support for the Zoo’s White Rhino Initiative, enabling the Zoo to greatly exceed its fund-raising goals to help save a near-extinct species. This Foundation has made outstanding investments to schools, colleges, hospitals, research institutions, children’s playgrounds, children’s associations, and natural history societies throughout San Diego and beyond.

The winner of the 2017 GPA International Pioneer Award:
The Arizona Community Foundation

The Arizona Community Foundation is known statewide and nationally for their impact throughout the state of Arizona in the area of quality education, arts and culture, community improvement and development, environment and sustainability, and health innovations. They are well informed on grantmaking best practices as they are one of the top foundations in the nation. Through strategic investments and partnerships, they support and collaborate with the organizations on the front lines working to meet community needs and enhance a shared quality of life throughout Arizona. Since 1978 they have awarded more than half a billion dollars to organizations and service providers in the state of Arizona. They provide free trainings and workshops to statewide organizations, businesses, and individuals on the importance of grantmaking. They also partner and collaborate with service providers as well as funders to ensure a culture of community by implementing statewide and international initiatives that support grantmaking in local and rural areas.

2016 Pioneer Award Recipients

The winner of the 2016 GPA Local Pioneer Award:

Community Foundation of Greater Atlanta

This year’s local recipient, nominated by GPA member Kimberly Hays de Muga, is Community Foundation of Greater Atlanta in Atlanta, Georgia.

The Community Foundation of Greater Atlanta leads the philanthropic community of Metro Atlanta and North Georgia in grant funding, donor advised funds and other avenues of family philanthropy and issue-based and/or community-based giving in health, arts and other key areas.

For more information about the Community Foundation of Greater Atlanta, please visit:

The winner of the 2016 GPA International Pioneer Award:
John T. Vucurevich Foundation

This year’s international recipient, nominated by GPA member Mary Garrigan, is John T. Vucurevich Foundation.

The John T. Vucurevich Foundation (JTVF) is revolutionizing the non-profit sector in the Rapid City and Black Hills region of western South Dakota through its expectation of collaboration between service providers and among funders.  JTVF has taken a leadership role in the Black Hills area to bring about a culture of community partnership, instead of competition, that is taking shape here through several community-wide conversations, initiatives and collaborations that it has been instrumental in promoting.

For more information about the John T. Vucurevich Foundation, please visit:

2015 Pioneer Award Recipients
The winner of the 2015 GPA Local Pioneer Award:
Missouri Foundation for Health

This year’s local recipient, nominated by GPA member Fielding Jezreel, is Missouri Foundation for Health in St. Louis, Missouri. Missouri Foundation for Health (MFH) is a resource for the region, working with communities and nonprofits to generate and accelerate positive changes in health. As a catalyst for change, the Foundation improves the health of Missourians through partnership, experience, knowledge and funding. Through highly strategic investments, MFH has been a game-changer for residents of Missouri, the nonprofits that serve them and grant professionals.

Among the Foundation’s improvements to the grant sector is the MoCAP program, designed to help nonprofits be more competitive for national funding opportunities. Through MoCAP, MFH alerts eligible organizations to relevant funding opportunities and offers free consulting services and technical assistance for specific grant opportunities. MoCAP coordinates assistance for about 50 applications per year and for every dollar they spend on the program, 32 dollars is brought to the region in support of health initiatives. MFH also provides extensive training opportunities for nonprofit leaders at no cost, for example training provided by The Grantsmanship Center and 501(c) 3 advocacy trainings that allow nonprofits to maximize their advocacy work while following regulations.

For more information about the Missouri Foundation for Health, please visit:

The winner of the 2015 GPA International Pioneer Award:
Methodist Healthcare Ministries of South Texas, Inc.

This year’s international recipient, nominated by GPA member Edlin Maldonado-Fuller, is Methodist Healthcare Ministries of South Texas, Inc. Methodist Healthcare Ministries of South Texas is one of the largest funders in South Texas. Along with investing $600+ million for the past 20 years, MHM operates: health and wellness clinics, school-based health centers, and an array of counseling, health and parenting programs.

MHM has invested in initiatives to increase and strengthen collaborations among grantees, non-grantee nonprofit organizations (NPOs), and local funders. For example, MHM supports a regional referral exchange, iNexx, which engages existing MHM programs, funded partners, and other local nonprofit resources to augment services. From a grant professional’s perspective, this allows NPOs to proudly speak of their collaborations and partnerships with other funders.
Recently, MHM led local funders in developing a Common Grant Application for the San Antonio area, which allows NPOs to tackle one application versus several versions. Similarly, MHM provides grant-writing related technical assistance and organizational capacity building services to ensure nonprofits are able to successfully engage other funders.For more information about Methodist Healthcare Ministries of South Texas, please visit:

2014 Pioneer Award Recipients

The winner of the 2014 GPA Local Pioneer Award:
MJ Murdock Charitable Trust

MJ Murdock Charitable Trust’s mission is to enrich the quality of life in the Pacific Northwest by providing grants and enrichment programs to organizations seeking to strengthen the region’s educational, spiritual, and cultural base in creative and sustainable ways.
In addition to a special interest in education and scientific research, the Trust partners with a wide variety of organizations that serve the arts, public affairs, health and medicine, human services, leadership development, and persons with disabilities.
Congratulations on being the Local Pioneer Award Winner!
For more information about the MJ Murdock Charitable Trust, please visit:
Nominated by: Darcie Spar, GPA Member

The winner of the 2014 GPA International Pioneer Award:
St. Luke's Health Initiatives (SLHI)

St. Luke’s Health Initiatives (SLHI) is on a mission to inform, connect and support efforts to improve the health of individuals and communities in Arizona.
Established following the sale of the St. Luke’s Hospital System to a for-profit corporation in 1996, today SLHI is an independent, non-partisan public foundation with four overarching priorities: (1) increasing access to care and insurance coverage, (2) working with municipal leaders to promote healthy community design, (3) building community-based organizational capacity, and (4) promoting health and healthcare innovations and collaborations.
Over its 17-year history, SLHI has invested more than $91 million into Arizona health and established itself as a key thought leader, convener, framer and catalyst of key health initiatives—ranging from statewide health policy and systems to the local development of community gardens.
Congratulations on being the International Pioneer Award Winner!
For more information about SLHI, please visit:
Nominated by: Lauren Daniels, GPA Member


2013 Pioneer Award Recipients

The winner of the 2013 GPA Local Pioneer Award: 
Maryland Association of Community Foundations

Maryland is home to 14 community foundations, each serving a region of Maryland in unique ways. Together, as the Maryland Community Foundations Association (MCFA), we speak with one voice in promoting philanthropy to benefit towns, cities and rural areas across the state. Community Foundations specialize in helping individuals, families and businesses plan and carry out their charitable giving; and in building endowments to serve their regions’ changing needs. Community foundations build and strengthen philanthropy—and thus, communities—by making it simple and cost-efficient for individuals, families and businesses to establish philanthropic funds and to learn about and invest in the needs of their communities.

Community foundations are permanent sources of philanthropic dollars; they specialize in building civic endowments to serve their regions’ changing needs. Community foundations serving Maryland hold a total of more than $760 million in philanthropic assets, and distributed about $108 million in grants this past year to nonprofit organizations in their communities, addressing a wide range of issues, from education to aging, from arts to the environment. We represent the collective philanthropy of hundreds of donors, including corporate, philanthropic and civic leaders.

Congratulations on being the Local Pioneer Award Winner! For more information about the MCFA, please contact Adam Donaldson at: (410) 727-1205 or at:
Nominated by: Maryland Chapter of GPA
The winner of the 2013 GPA National Pioneer Award: 
Nevada Women's Philanthropy


The Nevada Women's Philanthropy (NWP) is a member driven, pooled fund, large impact grant making organization established to address the needs of the greater Las Vegas community. Our membership consists of philanthropically motivated women, united by a powerful desire to address emerging issues facing our community in the areas of arts, education, environment, social services, and health.

The NWP was modeled after the Everychild Foundation in Los Angeles, in the belief that a group of women can come together and award grants to make a serious difference in the community. All NWP funds are derived from member dues in lieu of fundraising events which can often be costly and require many hours of planning.

Congratulations on being the National Pioneer Award Winner! For more information about Nevada Women's Philanthropy, please visit
Nominated by: Magda Hirsch, GPA Member

2012 Pioneer Award Recipients

The winner of the 2012 GPA Local Pioneer Award:
Ball Brothers Foundation, Muncie, IN

Pictured: Debbie DiVirgilio, GPA President (left) and Beverly Santicola (right)

Ball Brothers Foundation was nominated by Beverly Santicola because of their broad spectrum support in the community, their tendency to work collaboratively, and the fact that they reward professionalism with professional treatment and generous financial support.

Ball Brothers Foundation expends enormous effort to connect applicants, grantees, community resources and nationalnetworks and treats all grantees and prospective grantees as equals. Once an organization is funded, the Foundation counts them as one of the family and frequently calls upon them for information about issues specific to their expertise, for feedback on issues that will ultimately affect the grantee and as a cheerleader for them as they move forward with their own action plan. Ball Brothers Foundation also hosts grantees and prospective grantees in lunchtime meetings acrossspecific interest areas as an opportunity to exchange information, and encourage partnerships among non-profit partners.

For more information about the Bohemian Foundation, please contact Sarah Hach, Community Programs Manager at: (970) 221-2636 or at:
Nominated by: Beverly Santicola, GPA Member

The winner of the 2012 GPA National Pioneer Award:
Bohemian Foundation, Fort Collins, CO

The Bohemian Foundation was nominated by Stacey Poncelow of the Poudre School District in Fort Collins, Colorado for their collaborative efforts and for the way they truly care about their community. Bohemian was founded in 2001 by Pat Stryker (Stryker Medical) to continue her family's tradition of making the world a better place. As their namesakes did, these Bohemians believe in the worth of every individual and the values of imagination, creativity, innovation and spirit. Their grants are made by involving the citizens of the community in actively working together to serve others.

The Bohemian Foundation listens to the recipients of their funds and is not afraid to modify plans or grants to truly meet needs. The Foundation engages its grantees in on-going conversations to make certain their dollars are having the greatest impact and their staff regularly calls Poudre School District's Grants Coordinator to make sure that all students are having exceptional experiences. The Bohemian Foundation has evolved over its 11 years, showing strong leadership for its specific areas of interest and growing the community of givers. The Foundation seeks to involve citizens in the care and improvement of the community and move citizens into active involvement on pressing community issues, as described in the previous answer about its work on homelessness. The Foundation also seeks to build a community that is creative, innovative, and fun.

For more information about the Ball Brothers Foundation, please contact Donna Munchel at: 765-741-5500 or at:
Nominated by: Stacey Poncelow, GPA Member 


2011 Pioneer Award Recipients

The winner of the 2011 GPA Local Pioneer Award:
The Nell J. Redfield Foundation, Reno, NV

Pictured: Kendall Inskip (right) accepted the award from Linda Lysakowski (left)
The Nell J. Redfield Foundation was nominated by Bristlecone Family Resources because of their broad spectrum support in the community, their tendency to form a partnership with nonprofits, and the fact that they go above and beyond in helping grantees achieve success.

The Nell J. Redfield Foundation has played the role of both an individual leader and a strong collaborative supporter in the Nevada community. The essence of the Redfield Foundation is its belief in the community and its desire to support those organizations that provide much-needed services. The Redfield Foundation has demonstrated these attributes by supporting educational programs, social programs, the arts, and healthcare. These are but a few of the many programs and projects the foundation has supported throughout the nearly three decades it has dedicated to philanthropy.

For more information about the Nell J. Redfield Foundation, please contact Gerald C. Smith, Director at: (775)323-1373 or at:
Nominated by: Susan Zeiter, GPA Member

The winner of the 2011 GPA National Pioneer Award:
United Way of Western Connecticut, Danbury, CT

Pictured: Michael Johnston from the United Way of Western Connecticut (right) and Sarah Sabin from the GPA Pioneer Award Committee
The United Way of Western Connecticut was nominated by the Cerebral Palsy Research Foundation in Wichita, Kansas for the development of the Take Five to Give 5 Campaign.  This campaign was created to directly support the increased needs of nonprofits in the Danbury, Connecticut community suffering in the current economy. The United Way of Western Connecticut created a new and innovative approach to fundraising that relied on an online campaign and interactive media such as email, Facebook, Twitter and blog, making them a pioneer in their use of technology.  The Cerebral Palsy Research Foundation saw this and worked with the CEO of the United Way of Western Connecticut to adapt their successful model for the federal grant programs they oversee.  In this way, the United Way of Western Connecticut has impacted and improved the way grant professionals do their work.

For more information about United Way of Western Connecticut, please contact Michael Johnston, CEO at: (203)792-5330 x222 or at:
Nominated by: Robert Hull, GPA Member