Last month, the New Mexico Community Foundation announced a leadership transition that sent waves through the state’s philanthropy community. The statewide funder’s President and CEO, Jennifer Parks, is switching gears and leaving to become the head of the Los Alamos National Labs (LANL) Foundation in January 2015.
Parks has been with NMCF for just three years, but during that time, the foundation granted out over $17 million throughout the state. Under her leadership, NMCF also launched and seed funded NewMexicoWomen.org, a program initiative that focuses on advancing women and girls, especially females of color.
So what lies ahead for the leaderless New Mexico Community Foundation?
Well, it seems that the board is still searching for an interim president, a cautious approach before putting its full faith in a new permanent leader.
“As we continue to work through this exploration and learning period, Parks will remain fully engaged in these discussions through year-end. The NMCF Board of Directors has undertaken a search to identify an interim President and CEO,” according to Board Chairman, Sandy Kiser.
Or is this a sign of something even greater happening on the New Mexico philanthropy scene?
Over the past several months, Parks has been co-leading discussions about collaborating with the state’s other major community foundations in a potential merger. 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.
The goal of these merger talks is to make local philanthropy more efficient and deliver a greater overall impact. Amen to that.
If these five foundations merged, they’d boost their collective power and have $185 million in assets at their disposal. And if the merger does happen, then NMCF, as an individual foundation, may not need to find a new permanent president after all.
As it stands now, NMCF is the only statewide community foundation. With a broader focus than the other four community foundations involved, NMCF will likely emerge as a centering force to balance funds and power among the four quadrants of the state. In recent years, NMCF has been awarding the most grants in southeastern New Mexico, but a groundbreaking merger like this could totally shake up geographical priorities in the state.
Parks will continue working with NMCF through the end of 2014 before moving over to LANL and focusing on education and early childhood causes in northern New Mexico. We'll be watching her there, too.