Celebrating 25 years this October, Albuquerque Community Foundation’s Future Fund acquaints younger members of the community with responsive philanthropy, develops community awareness and nurtures leadership. Since its inception in 1997, Future Fund has awarded more than $360,000 in unrestricted grants from an endowment of nearly $750,000. In the past, Future Fund reviewed unfunded grant applications, asked groups to create videos and/or give presentations to members, who then voted on which organizations received funding. This meant organizations might be favored because they had more resources to create and/or present materials. Or because they were already known to a Future Fund member.
The pandemic forced us to think differently. We thought about the time that goes into applying for funding – time that takes away from providing services. To remove some of the obstacles to funding and get support out to the community quickly, we pivoted. Social distancing, and the reality that nonprofits everywhere are under much different burdens prompted us to rethink our grant-making.
In 2021, we began using a masquerade format to award our major grant at our annual Grant Night. Rather than first determining the organizations to fund, we thought about the issues facing our community. Members circulated among tables for discussion on each of three broad categories, immersing themselves and advocating for the issue, not a specific organization. After robust, wide-ranging and emotional conversations, members voted for the cause they believed should be funded, not the organization. The specific organizations previously chosen in each category remained anonymous throughout the grant-making process, only to be revealed after members voted on the issue they wanted to fund.
This year, we followed the same format, broadly choosing housing and homeless services as the focal point for volunteering and grants. Family Promise received $25,000 to support their programs to empower families who are at risk of homelessness or experiencing homelessness to achieve sustainable independence through a community-based response.
Under this new model, we asked the previous year’s Grant Night recipient to nominate three nonprofits to receive one of three annual microgrants voted by the membership. Five Sandoval Indian Pueblos Inc. received $1,500 to continue its work strengthening and enhancing the lives of its member tribes and the surrounding communities.
Lastly, we also brought back the Outstanding Philanthropist award to change the perspective on how philanthropy and giving are defined. The award went to Natasha Garcia, executive director of the New Mexico Women’s Re-Entry Center. Natasha is using her lived experience to help women and their families in finding wellness and breaking the chains of substance use disorder, homelessness, and justice-involvement.
We believe our innovative approach to funding benefits not only the organizations who received grants, but our members, too. They learn more about the problems facing our community and how to make a deeper impact. And they come to understand that they don’t need to wait for permission or to reach a certain age to be “philanthropists.” As leaders in the community, Future Fund members are already creating change through this new way of engaging with causes important to them.
We invite you to support organizations working in the areas you care about, whether by donating money, volunteering or spreading the word. And if you’re interested in the work of the Future Fund, or would like information about joining, visit go.abqcf.org/future-fund.