From top left clockwise: Sam Alpert, Mary Jane Rynd (Piper Trust president and CEO), Nate Lowrie, Regina Nixon, Karen Jayne, Emily Goble Early, Laura Magruder, Jeri Royce, Debbie DiCarlo, Carmen Heredia.


Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust selected Cancer Support Community Arizona CEO Debbie DiCarlo as a recipient of one of its nine Piper Fellowship award recipients for 2021.

The Piper Fellows program acknowledges the never-ceasing demands of nonprofit leadership and offers opportunities for nonprofit leaders to reach, retool, and revitalize. An external selection committee – comprised of Maricopa County leaders who are knowledgeable about the value and contributions of the social profit sector – reviews applications, conducts interviews, and makes its recommendations to Piper Trust’s Board of Trustees for final selection.

A Piper Fellowship provides potentially up to $90,000 in grant awards that support the Fellow and the Fellow’s organization. This includes up to $30,000 to support professional development for an outstanding leader of a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization serving Maricopa County; $10,000 for staff and board development; and eligibility for a grant up to $50,000 for a Piper Fellows Organizational Enhancement Award.

DiCarlo joins eight exceptional nonprofit leaders who were also selected for Piper Trust’s 2021 Class of Piper Fellows and who are as equally passionate about improving and enriching life in Maricopa County as she is. They include Sam Alpert, Chief Development Officer for Junior Achievement of Arizona; Emily Goble Early, Curator of Anthropology for Arizona Museum of Natural History; Carmen Heredia, CEO of Valle del Sol; Karen Jayne, CEO of Stardust; Nate Lowrie, CEO of Valleywise Health Foundation; Laura Magruder, CEO of Maggie’s Place Inc.; Regina Nixon, Executive Director of Phoenix Conservatory of Music; and Jeri Royce, CEO of Esperança. The newly selected class becomes part of the larger and enduring Piper Fellows network that is now 90 Fellows strong.

The 2021 Piper Fellows will each participate in a self-designed, professional development “sabbaticals” focused on strengthening leadership skills and exploring renowned programs that can help nonprofits become more effective and resilient. A Fellowship supports the professional development, study, and travel for the Fellow, including an intentional respite activity that provides the Fellow the opportunity to reflect on learnings. Additionally, the Fellowship supports some professional development for staff and/or the board of a Fellow’s organization. After completing the Fellowship, the Fellow is eligible to apply for an Organizational Enhancement Award to implement learning or programming that emerged during a Fellow’s sabbatical work.

“The Trust’s Founder, Virginia Galvin Piper, always emphasized the importance of investing in people,” said Mary Jane Rynd, president and CEO of Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust. “She believed that as people gain more knowledge and strength, they become better equipped to build capacity in their organizations, which creates positive ripple effects that resonate throughout the community. The Piper Fellows program is a perfect example of how the Trust continues Virginia’s legacy.”

DiCarlo’s Fellowship plans include a combination of academic study at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School Center for Nonprofit Management; intensive personal, staff, and board training by the National Training Institute on Race and Equity; and experiential, in-place learning and networking focusing on urban and rural American Indian relationships. Through her Fellowship, she will strive to develop into a more mature leader to help drive the culture and strategy of Cancer Support Community Arizona (CSCAZ) more authentically and effectively, and will work to gain clarity concerning bias, privilege, and the unique lens her experiences create. She intends to build upon her leadership skills, and in collaboration with CSCAZ Board of Directors and staff, address the health inequities that disproportionately impact families of color impacted by cancer.

DiCarlo is the adopted daughter of a first-generation Mexican father. Born in Phoenix, she feels that her Mexican and German heritages nurtured her deep appreciation of familial roots and ties. As CEO of CSCAZ, DiCarlo works to ensure that all people impacted by cancer are empowered by knowledge, strengthened by action, and sustained by community. DiCarlo realized later in life the privilege that her light skin, blue eyes, and blond hair provided and has struggled to articulate and lead in a way that both acknowledges privilege and celebrates ethnicity.

“Cancer Support Community Arizona’s informal mission is to serve all families throughout the state who are impacted by cancer,” said DiCarlo. “However, this omits a critical aspect of the mission – community. The Piper Fellowship will provide the tools to help identify those who are missing from the CSCAZ community due to their feeling a lack of belonging and trust that deter engagement. We carry a strong desire to go beyond “serving” to walking alongside our clients. This is a nuanced but important difference. It changes everything and demands sensitive, informed, and bold leadership.”

About Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust: Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust supports organizations that enrich health, well-being, and opportunity for the people of Maricopa County, Arizona. Since it began awarding grants in 2000, Piper Trust has invested more than $662 million in local nonprofits and programs. Piper Trust grantmaking areas are healthcare and medical research, children, older adults, arts and culture, education, and religious organizations. For more information, visit pipertrust.org.