10 Questions or Less for Heather Smith


10 Questions or Less is a new feature here on the Forum’s Forum in which we get to know regional association staff members a little better—their work, what drives them, and more. First up is Heather Smith, Marketing/Communications Associate at Arizona Grantmakers Forum.

Most people in the network probably know you from your work on the Regional Association Programming 2009 document (PDF, login required). How did that project get started? How is Arizona Grantmakers Forum using the information?

Compiling the Regional Association Programming 2009 document was, put best, a task and a half!  Our CEO Marissa Theisen had the idea to create a list of all of the programs offered by other regional associations. She asked me to begin doing some research. I tried to find the programs offered by each regional association on their websites and created a list. The list was originally 50 pages! That’s when I decided to create a bit of a booklet and organize the programs into categories. The document will be a great resource for our program and special events committees.

You’re a member of the AmeriCorps VISTA program? Can you tell me a little about it?

Heather at her graduation from Black Hills State University in Spearfish, SD, December 2008

AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) is a national service program that fights poverty by building capacity.  VISTAs have been positioned with nonprofits and government agencies for about 40 years now.  We stay at a site for a duration of one year and receive a monthly living stipend. So, if you want to be technical, I’m not really a paid staff member of AGF, but a professional volunteer working to support AGF’s great mission. To become a VISTA, I went through a lengthy application process online. We search for sites that are in need of our skills, and nonprofits can search for us as well. That’s how I came in contact with Marissa and AGF. I had gone to college for Mass Communications, AGF needed a VISTA to serve as the Marketing and Communications Associate. It all fit together.

What are some of your day-to-day responsibilities?

Each day, I scope out the news in Arizona for anything related to philanthropy/charity (especially if it involves one of our members). I also update our Facebook Fan Page and try to keep an eye on our social media presence. I’ve always liked research, so I spend time updating AGF documents/publication such as our Business Giving Workbook and the Youth Grantmaking Profile Survey, and researching methods to promote membership, increase web traffic, improve our newsletters, etc, etc. I also serve as the liaison for our Young and Emerging Leaders Affinity Group, consisting of members under 40 and/or with 3 or fewer years of experience in the philanthropic sector.

Is there anything you’re working on now that is particularly exciting?

AGF is currently testing out a social networking site exclusively for our members. I’m playing an active role in preparing the site and developing a plan to promote it to our membership. I’m also developing a strategy to promote the philanthropic resources on our website to educators and small businesses.

I’m a Millennial and you are too. What, if anything, do you think our generation does differently work-wise?

I haven’t noticed much difference. I’ve read plenty articles that claim my work style should differ, but nothing has really hit me. It makes me wonder if Tom (Torretta) and Marissa have noticed anything.

What are you passionate about?

Since joining the AmeriCorps VISTA, I’ve become  very passionate about poverty. I’m an advocate for cultural understanding/acceptance as well. This is a little off track, but I’m also passionate about being from the Midwest and small-town USA.

Rural philanthropy is a pretty big issue right now. I know you’re from South Dakota originally and Arizona certainly has its rural communities as well. Is this something you’re interested in or just a coincidence of geography?

My being a South Dakotan and finding placement in Arizona was a coincidence of geography. I actually had no idea Arizona had so many rural communities before I moved here. I love rural philanthropy. Perhaps I’m a little biased considering my hometown was the epitome of ‘rural’ (1,200 inhabitants, a graduating class of 26).  I feel that sometimes the needs of the small communities are overlooked because they’re not as evident or as broadcasted as those in cities and metropolitan areas.

What’s one thing you do in your position that the Forum network can help with?

Since I spend an ample amount of time researching, I utilize the listserv quite a bit. It’s also useful to have easy-to-find, relevant, and timely  documents on the your webpage.

Anything else we should know?

My AmeriCorps service ends August, and I will move to Colorado to attend Grad School at the University of Denver. I’ll be working to achieve a Masters in Public Relations. Perhaps someday I can be the equivalent to philanthropic and nonprofit PR that Beth Kanter is to technology.

If you’d like to recommend someone for a profile through 10 Questions or Less, contact Dan Brady.

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