Philanthropies count fewer blessings

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By Roger Snodgrass

New Mexico foundations, like individuals and businesses in the state, have been hit hard by the economic downturn. That in turn means trouble for the non-profits that fill some of the gaps in the social fabric.


“Among our members, portfolios have fallen between 20 percent and more than 50 percent,” said Terry Odendahl, president of the New Mexico Association of Grant Makers, this morning. “Most are planning to diminish their funding by an equivalent amount.”


In general foundations are required to pay at least 5 percent of the average market value of their total assets.


“It’s called ‘pay-out,’ and many stick with that,” said Odendahl. “I’m encouraging them in bad times to be paying out more.”


Hard-hit non-profits are also being encouraged to take a closer look at their own expenses, and consider new belt-tightening measures, including merging or sharing functions.


On an optimistic note, Odendahl said, “During the Depression, individual giving increased. I’m hoping that we see that again.”


Susan Herrera, executive director of the Los Alamos National Laboratory Foundation, said this morning that the economy is having widespread effects on the philanthropic community.


“We think our funding will remain flat and consistent for 2009,” she said. “I’m working real hard for 2010.”


She said the foundation’s equity is down 34 percent.


“And we’re one of the stronger ones because we’re managed by the University of California,” Herrera said.


The LANL Foundation announced recently that it was allocating $150,000 in small grant applications.  These are awards up to $1,500 and are made throughout the year to non-profit educational institutions, qualified 501(c)(3) organizations, government agencies and pueblo or tribal communities in the seven-county region of northern New Mexico.


The foundation has a free proposal-writing workshop scheduled today in Española, which Herrera said was filled with 50 participants. The workshops are designed to provide coaching for how to put together compelling proposals with realistic goals and workable budgets.


Another one is planned for March 5, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Foundation’s Center for Educational and Nonprofit Leadership at 1112 Plaza del Norte in Española.


Los Alamos National Laboratory announced earlier this month that it was distributing an additional $265,000 in special one-time Community Giving Grants from Los Alamos National Security, LLC, the company that manages the laboratory.


Grants went to 24 nonprofit organizations from Los Alamos, Santa Fe, Albuquerque and Carlsbad for projects that ranged from feeding the homeless to building a commercial kitchen for individuals with developmental disabilities.


The  grants are in addition to the dollar-for-dollar match provided by LANS for employee contributions to area United Way programs and other community giving efforts.


Guidelines and forms related to the LANL Foundation are available at www.lanlfoundation.org.


Contact Mariann Johnston or Vangie Trujillo of LANL’s Community Programs Office at 665-4400 or CPO@lanl.gov, for more information about the Community Giving Grants.