Arizona-Indiana-Michigan (AIM) Alliance

Promoting effectiveness in how to get, how to give, and how to use philanthropic resources

The Arizona-Indiana-Michigan Alliance (AIM) is a strategic collaboration that grew through the vision and commitment of three academic centers' leadership teams focused on addressing the needs of an evolving nonprofit sector and sustaining capacity. The work of the AIM Alliance started in 2003 when the three centers began planning discussions. It received a $7.5 million grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation in 2006 to continue this collaboration and utilize each center's strengths to increase capacity and diversity of the nonprofit sector.

The work of the alliance centers on knowledge sharing and strengthening diverse communities, cross delivery of flagship programs, development of standardized research protocols and joint publication and dissemination of research and cross participation in significant events.

The alliance will further the sector by improving nonprofit management practice, generating and sharing scholarly and practical knowledge, increasing communication and collaborating on research. It will also strengthen its work with diverse communities by developing leadership and contributing to the public's understanding of nontraditional forms of philanthropy. Finally, the collaborative work will focus the centers by helping each other advance to the leading edge of nonprofit management education by bolstering each center's distinctive niches.


The AIM Alliance engages in collaborative research and dissemination and also in continued discussions on provision of cost-effective, comparative, and replicable research for the nonprofit and philanthropic field.

Giving and volunteering

The collaboration's first partnership research venture is the study of giving and volunteering in Arizona, Indiana and Michigan conducted in 2007. There exists such a wide array of protocols to gauge philanthropy across the sector that we feel it a good precedent to turn to a common research protocol and analysis, with an intention of creating consistency and comparative results. A standardized approach to giving studies was piloted that accentuates the strength of IU's research design in this topic. 

Nonprofit sector research

Learnings from the tri-State giving and volunteering research project utilizing a standardized protocol were presented and disseminated across the sector through panel presentations at the Nonprofit Academic Centers Council (NACC) in 2009, Association for Research on Nonprofit Organizations and Voluntary Action (ARNOVA) in 2008 and 2009, and the International Society for Third Sector Research (ISTR) in 2008.

Nonprofit Data Conference

In November 2009, the alliance organized the AIM Alliance Nonprofit Data Conference as a parallel session within the Association for Research on Nonprofit Organizations and Voluntary Action (ARNOVA) conference. The AIM Alliance Nonprofit Data Conference provided a venue for students, researchers and faculty from the Midwest to discuss nonprofit sector data, research and research methodologies. The goal is to increase understanding of the sector's state, impact and effectiveness by creating a venue for robust discussion on data and research methodologies. Graduate students presented their topics at the research conceptualization panel discussions.

Philanthropy among communities of color

One of the main goals of the collaboration is to increase understanding of philanthropy among diverse communities. Below are links to research conducted by the various centers and through the AIM Alliance to add to this growing area of work.

Academic programs

The AIM Alliance continues to collaborate to enhance its educational offerings with the end goal of developing effective nonprofit and philanthropic sector leadership. As the mission of each of the AIM Alliance partner centers focus on education and academic programming, the AIM Alliance collaboration has allowed these three leaders in nonprofit and philanthropic education to partner in non-credit, undergraduate and graduate programs.

American Humanics

In 2007 and 2008, the collaboration developed joint activities for its American Humanics students. Joint recruitment campaigns were also developed involving the students in each of the campuses. Several undergraduate on-line classes in nonprofit management are jointly offered among the AIM Alliance campuses. Students in any of the three AIM Alliance universities are able to enrol in their home campus and participate in classes offered in the other partner campuses. Courses provided in the past include grantwriting (GVSU), nonprofit marketing (IU) and volunteer management (ASU).

International education collaboration

Indiana University's Center on Philanthropy took the lead in a collaboration among various international educational institutions and AIM Alliance partner universities. The collaboration, Benchmarking Nonprofit Organizations and Philanthropy Educational Programs (BENPHE), analyzed graduate programs in nonprofit management, social entrepreneurship, and philanthropic and identified ways to develop trans-Atlantic collaborative educational programs including internship and cross-institutional credit opportunities. Among the outputs for this project is a database of nonprofit, social entrepreneurship and philanthropic degree programs in the US and EU. 

Library and archives

The AIM Alliance members have been working together to enhance and coordinate their philanthropy library and archives collection. Collaboration in this area would be beneficial to all parties as well as national scholars in philanthropy. As a result of this collaboration, there has been sharing of guidelines for the collections and the archive program.

Emerging leadership

The AIM Alliance is committed to developing emerging leadership for the sector. It hosted two important discussions around nonprofit and foundation sectors emerging leaders. NP 2020: Issues and Answers from the Next Generation is a conference organized in 2007 with gathered more than 100 emerging leaders in the nonprofit sector. Equity in Philanthropy: Not Just a Direction but an AIM is a convening organized in 2007 which gathered emerging leaders in the philanthropy. For information on other activities and programs focused on developing emerging leadership in the sector, please see the links below:

Arizona State University

  • American Express Leadership Academy
  • Public Allies Arizona

Indiana University

  • Third Millennium Philanthropy and Leadership Initiative

Grand Valley State University


Collaboration and program sharing

The Arizona-Indiana-Michigan Alliance (AIM) is a strategic collaboration between the Lodestar Center for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Innovation (Lodestar Center) at Arizona State University (ASU), the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University (IU), and the Dorothy A. Johnson Center for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Leadership (Johnson Center) at Grand Valley State University (GVSU). The mission of the AIM Alliance is to work together to unleash new resources and increase understanding of philanthropy across race and cultures. 

In 2008, the AIM Alliance became partners with the Lodestar Foundation on a new initiative called the Collaboration Prize. The Collaboration Prize is designed to inspire cooperation among nonprofit organizations. Recognizing the efficiencies gained from working together, the Prize shines a spotlight on collaborations among two or more nonprofit organizations that each would otherwise provide the same or similar programs or services and compete for clients, financial resources, or staff. 

As part of the AIM Alliance partnership with the Lodestar Foundation, the three Centers are conducting research around many themes of effective nonprofit collaboration. Click the links below to see a sampling of the most recent research findings:

Click here to download a copy of "The Collaboration 2009 Finalists," (PDF) highlighting the eight outstanding finalists of the inaugural $250,000 Collaboration Prize

Click here to download a copy of "Models of Collaboration," (PDF) outlining eight popular models of collaboration

Click here to download a copy of the "AIM Board Members' Guide to Partnership Planning," (PDF) which shares 10 key elements critical to the success of any effective partnership.

Click here to download a copy of the article, "Collaboration and Partnerships: A Funder’s Quick Review."

Flagship program sharing

Cross-delivery of flagship programs is central in achieving the goals of the alliance. Exporting expertise in this way will allow each partner to leverage each center's strengths and engage in cross-promotion to help grow these programs. Programs included in the exchange are:

The Fund Raising School (IU)

The Fund Raising School is a training program for nonprofit staff and fundraising professionals. The course includes the historical and philanthropic context, the current issues, and the art and science of fundraising and philanthropy. The Fund Raising School is the only international fundraising education program housed within a university and combines cutting-edge practice with scientific research in its curriculum. Future program exchange dates will be on this website once it is available.

Indiana University

The Grantmaking School (GVSU)

The Grantmaking School offers the first university-based program for teaching the techniques and ethics of advanced grantmaking specifically to foundation grantmaking professionals. The curriculum is developed with the practical needs of experienced grantmakers in mind on topics such as strategic grantmaking, due diligence, ethics and accountability. Future program exchange dates will be on this website once it is available.

Grand Valley State University