How Small, but Frequent, Grants Are Shaping Education in New Mexico

Grants of just $1,500 can only do so much, right? Well when they’re available once a month, that $1,500 can add up for nonprofits trying to keep their heads above water.

The Española-based LANL Foundation has an Educational Outreach Small Grants program that closely ties the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) to communities in northern New Mexico. And although STEM funding is the hot ticket item these days, LANL doesn’t stick to just science, technology, engineering, and math grants.

The LANL Foundation announced $48,000 in new education grant awards for 2014, which might not sound like a lot, but it’s sure impacting a lot of different local nonprofits. Each of these 32 grants were for the same amount, $1,500, and the opportunity for funding comes up each month for public schools and nonprofits that have teacher development, curriculum enhancement, and classroom instruction.

Last year’s grant recipients included Abrazos Family Support Services’ autism after-school program, El Camino Real Academy’s student robotics program, Española Valley Fiber Arts Center’s intro courses for children, and Rio Arriba County Fair Association’s agricultural livestock projects.

Considering that organizations are only eligible to receive one of these grants per calendar year, there is a lot of room for new and unaffiliated groups to move in. However, one catch is that only a single school in each of the 20 school districts is eligible for one of these grants per year. And if you didn’t meet all the reporting deadlines from a previous LANL grant, then you can kill this opportunity goodbye. All funding is limited to the counties of Los Alamos, Mora, Rio Arriba, San Miguel, Sandoval, Santa Fe and Taos.

Small education grant funding down a bit in 2014 from the previous year, when 43 grants were awarded totaling $63,300. However, the LANL Foundation has a few other programs up its sleeve as well. Its annual giving budget is $4 million and the endowment has reached $60 million.

Some of those annual funds have been going to the Northern New Mexico Inquiry Science Education Consortium (ISEC) as a regional program designed to improve performance of high-need students in grades K to 8. Through its scholarship fund, the foundation provides scholarships that support Northern New Mexico students pursuing four-year degrees in fields that will serve the region.  In 2014, 73 students were awarded scholarships totaling $419,500. Funds also keep flowing to LANL’s First Born Program, a home-visiting program that provides prenatal and postpartum visits to first-time families in Northern New Mexico.

On a side note, there have been some big changes recently at the LANL Foundation. Jennifer Parks stepped into her role as the foundation’s new CEO in mid-January, replacing the 17-year founding director who retired, Susan Herrera. But she’s no stranger to the world of philanthropy, having previously served as president and CEO of the New Mexico Community Foundation. Over $17 million in nonprofit grants and scholarships were awarded by NMCF under her leadership. She has a background in law and real estate and has worked on initiatives for women and girls and emergency funds.

Related: IP’s Profile of the New Mexico Community Foundation

Schools and relevant nonprofits can apply for funding by the 15th of each month, and online applications are accepted through the foundation website. Check out a sample small grant application to get a feel for how this all works, and reach out to Sally Gallegos, your LANL small grants contact, at 505-753-8890 ext. 118 or sally@lanlfoundation.org.