She will be responsible for overseeing a $1 million portfolio of grants that support nonprofit organizations that advance transparency and ethics in government, expand public participation and ensure that all New Mexicans have a voice in their government.
“As a leader, Heather has deep experience bringing New Mexicans together around common interests,” said Thornburg Foundation Executive Director Allan Oliver. “She also has a remarkable track record of bipartisan policy achievements, including helping pass a constitutional amendment to create an independent ethics commission, participatory research on sustainable journalism, and numerous other policy priorities as generated through public input.”
Balas said she was honored to join the Thornburg Foundation team.
“Effective governance is the cornerstone of our society and warrants thoughtful investment of time and resources,” she said. “I look forward to working on solutions to strengthen democracy in New Mexico.”
Balas, a native of Portales, has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Eastern New Mexico University and master’s degree in political communication from the University of Maryland.
She previously worked as president and executive director for 14 years at public policy organization New Mexico First. Before that, she was an associate director for the California Center for Civic Participation, voter education director for the Commission on Presidential Debates in Washington, D.C., and a program officer for the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.
With assets of $112 million, the Thornburg Foundation is one of the largest nonprofit supporters in New Mexico, awarding more than $5 million in grants to high-performing organizations focused on good government reform, early childhood education, agriculture reform and community funding.
It is a family foundation that “works to catalyze high impact outcomes using evidence to understand and solve systemic problems, engage stakeholders to drive policy reform, and create meaningful and lasting change,” according to the organization website.
The foundation also relies on independent research, data and analysis and its recipients to leverage resources for better results.
Among the hundreds of grantees have been: Accion, Adaptive Sports Program New Mexico, Albuquerque Community Foundation, UNM Census Data, Audubon New Mexico, Big Brothers Big Sisters Mountain Region, Bird Conservancy of the Rockies, Center for Responsive Politics, Communities In Schools of New Mexico, Interfaith Community Shelter, Kitchen Angels Inc., KUNM, National Young Farmers Coalition, National Institute On Money In State Politics, New Mexico First, Roadrunner Food Bank, Searchlight New Mexico, UNM, NMSU, and the Western Landowners Alliance.
The Thornburg Foundation, founded in 1999, is based in Santa Fe.
For more information, visit thornburgfoundation.org.