Will New Mexico’s Community Foundations All Merge into One?

New Mexico has a handful of community foundations, and interestingly, these funders are discussing a mega-merger that would send shockwaves through the local nonprofit community. Involved in talks are the Albuquerque Community Foundation, the New Mexico Community Foundation, the Taos Community Foundation, the Santa Fe Community Foundation, and the Community Foundation of Southern New Mexico. If these five foundations merged, they’d boost their collective power and have $185 million in assets at their disposal.

“Donors, grantees and community members could all benefit tremendously if our organizations came together in a more formal manner that creates efficiencies, enhances community giving and delivers great impact for the people we serve,” the foundation leaders wrote in an official statement.

Each of the foundations’ presidents met to examine funder models around the country and explore this option. Each foundation’s board of directors voted unanimously to enter into these discussions and designated three people to join the meetings with the CEOs and directors.  

“We want to be able to do more,” explained Randy Royster of the Albuquerque Community Foundation. “Looking at trends in philanthropy and the needs of the state, it is vital that we explore alternatives to operating alone.”

Board room chatter picked up after the recent “Give Grande New Mexico” campaign, which was a cross-foundation collaboration that raised $853,000 in a single day. Undoubtedly, new and combined funding sources could allow for a larger single foundation to increase overall giving in urban cities, rural areas, and in community leadership work. A statewide foundation would likely be entrusted to provide funding to parts of the state that don’t currently have their own community foundations. A merger like this would make big headlines and perhaps even draw in the attention of national funders who are interested in giving New Mexico a helping hand.

Since many individual and corporate donors tend to become emotionally committed to the community foundation they’ve been working with for years, foundation leaders have been reassuring donors that their contributions will be safeguarded and projects they’ve supported will remain funded.

This initial “explore and learn” phase began in May and with an estimated six-month time frame, phase one should be wrapping up any day now. But since the idea first went public, all has been quiet on the merger front.

There are about 730 community foundations in the United States. Will New Mexico join the ranks of say, New Hampshire, which operates under the umbrella of a single statewide community foundation? Can a single foundation in New Mexico maintain greater regional and national power without losing touch with local communities?

All interesting questions. 

“Community foundations need to continue to innovate in order to remain relevant to our communities,” explained Brian Byrnes, former President and CEO of the Santa Fe Community Foundation. “There is also increased competitive pressure from the commercial sector for philanthropic services, and all this must be addressed to thrive in the coming decades.”