The following is a conversation between Chris Goett, President & CEO of the Santa Fe Community Foundation, and Denver Frederick, the Host of The Business of Giving.

Denver: Since 1981,the Santa Fe Community Foundation has been dedicated to improving the health and vitality of Northern New Mexico. As a comprehensive center for community philanthropy, they collaborate with hundreds of local nonprofits, connect thousands of generous donors to giving opportunities, and support causes that improve the quality of life for all in the region.

And here to discuss this work, as well as the challenges and opportunities that lay ahead is Chris Goett, the president and CEO of the Santa Fe Community Foundation.

Welcome to The Business of Giving, Chris.

Chris Goett, President & CEO of the Santa Fe Community Foundation

Christopher: Thank you, Denver. It’s a pleasure to be here.

Denver: Tell us about the Santa Fe Foundation and what you believe makes it distinctive and unique.

Christopher: Well, we were incorporated in 1981, and our origin story is a little different than some other community foundations, I believe. It was a response to federal and state funding being slashed for a lot of safety net services, for critical human need work. And the mayor at the time, Art Trujillo, and the city council went out to learn about this model.

 They brought some folks from the Chicago Community Trust, some folks from California, and did this sort of organizing that happened where local donors founded our foundation in the fall of ’81. We are one of two of 12 community foundations incorporated that year in ’81.

But really, its origin story is connected to the public sector, which for me is… I love talking about that origin story because philanthropy really is the flywheel, it’s the risk capital for government to do bigger and better things to help those that are vulnerable in my viewpoint and my philosophy.

And so I love tracing that origin story back to our city leaders here and our donors who stepped up to create this model to organize resources for a shared passion in place, which is Northern New Mexico.

Northern New Mexico… New Mexico is a unique place. I know every community foundation says they’re unique, but I’ve worked at a few and worked nationally, as you know. And there are families that trace their connection to our place and our land that go back millennia. The Acoma Pueblo here in New Mexico goes back to, I think, 1150, in terms of an organized community.

And so there’s sense of ancestral lands here. There’s been two waves of colonization that have come in, from the Spanish, and then the Western U.S. have come in. So there’s great nuance on this shared home that we have, and we have to hold that always in the front part of our minds and hearts as we move forward towards our shared home, beyond today into tomorrow.

So there’s a bit of a dynamic that is: we want to have reverence for, we want to understand and hold in our approach to things. My team are really local solution finders. We look at what the community is saying that they need, or we’re hearing trends through a myriad of ways that we engage, and we’re trying to matchmake with donors and/or other funders and government.

Denver: If I was going to go and visit Santa Fe tomorrow, and I said, Hey, Chris, what do I need to keep in mind? What do I need to know about Santa Fe and Santa Feans? Is that what you call them, yourselves?

Christopher: Yeah. Santa Feans, yeah. Well, we love art and artistic expression in terms of a community, but also we are a progressive community, lowercase “p.” And we have been that way for decades here.

And we’ve shown the way in a manner that has reflected itself at our community foundation. So for instance, the state’s first LGBTQ+ fund, advised fund, lives here and was created in ’97. That’s our Envision Fund. We have a Native American Advised Fund that was created in ’93.

These are both funds where the leadership from those distinctive communities are guiding the fundraising and grant making for those communities. And that’s a beautiful process in my view because it’s not just a check-the-box thing that we’re giving grants to. You’re actually creating a vehicle for leaders from those communities to make choices on behalf of.

And that’s been happening here since the ’90s. And that’s a bit of a picture of Santa Fe in terms of our values and how we move through the world and look for solutions. And I would say, you should come to Santa Fe. I’d love to host you and show you around.

The other thing about our foundation in the midst of Santa Fe is around 2011, we purchased our building. Our board figured a way to purchase our building, and it’s become a central place for the Learning Hub. And we have a lot of nonprofits in Santa Fe, probably more per capita than some other towns.

But the Learning Hub has allowed us to really invest in that sector, bring best practice, sharpen skills, and then really do some leadership cohort, by identity, by issue because we’re seeing a transition in leadership in our nonprofits, like many, many sectors are seeing post pandemic.

So that work has actually sharpened and become more important. And it’s actually a core part of our strategic plan moving forward. And our physical space enabled us to really take that to the next level.

We’ve been doing that work since ’96, but once we had a physical space with a workroom, like a workshop, a work area, it just kind of changed the game for us. Now we’re pivoting to being hybrid.

Denver: Yeah. It’s just what you…

Christopher: You know it.

Denver: I got that figured out. But that is quite progressive, as you say with a small “p.” When you think about those initiatives in the years 1993 and 1997, then you have to stop and think, where was this country on those issues back then? And they were pretty much nowhere, I would think, with the…

Christopher: Yeah. And both of those are statewide because we were a place that could give cover to a donor that was not up here but cared deeply about those issues. And so those are where we flex statewide, and we work cooperatively with organizations across the state.

But because Santa Fe was so on the front foot on those issues, we were able to create vehicles around them to kind of support those communities.

Denver: Let’s talk about some of the challenges in Santa Fe, and one of the biggest, no doubt, is safe, stable, and affordable housing, just like so many other communities. And I know this has been decades in the making, and it’s a pretty complex issue with a lot of social and economic factors. Tell us about those challenges.

Christopher: Yes. When I started here two years ago, like many, many new leaders, you do a community listening. You listen to stakeholders, you listen to donors, you listen to community leaders.

But as we started to realize this issue of affordability was cutting across issue areas from our grant applications. It was cutting across donors worrying about the next generation. The donors who are secure, like, well: How does a young family make it here? They started asking these questions about the health and welfare of our community.

And if home is the stabilizing factor that allows someone to have good educational attainment if you’re a child, to be able to have economic agency so you’re not paying more than 33% of your income on housing, then we started realizing, Oh my goodness! We are tipping into a crisis, and what do we do about it?

And so the thing I love, and my background I should just disclose, I worked for an affordable housing developer, a nonprofit, affordable housing developer. I advocated for rent stabilization in Inglewood, California, and as a funder, and kind of funded the organizing work to get that passed before the Rams Stadium opened.

So I think about the continuum of housing insecurity. On the one end, you have chronic homelessness. On the other end, you have people struggling to buy a home. And in between those two kinds of poles, you have a lot of solutions that need to be addressed in terms of mitigating or alleviating housing insecurity, which is roughly defined as a household paying more than 33% of their income on rent.

And so what’s been wonderful, and I’ve been excited to help join and lead with colleagues, is a joint meeting. I had one last night at four o’clock, every Wednesday, between the city of Santa Fe, the County of Santa Fe, a family foundation here in town, the Thornburg Foundation, a healthcare conversion foundation, Anchorum Foundation, and us.

And the fund is housed here at the Santa Fe Community Foundation. It’s called the S3 Fund, which is the Safe, Stable, and Supportive Housing Fund. And it’s a vehicle to coordinate and collaborate on issues. And there’s six joint goals that the city and county have adopted, and they’re good goals.

They range from rent stabilization and protection, all the way up to building more covenanted, affordable units to alleviate economic homelessness. And that’s something I’ve been really proud of in the last two years to kind of help work through and push on with my colleagues, and harmonize.

We are adopting the Built For Zero model; Rosanne Haggerty recently came out who is an incredible national leader of Community Solutions. And I had the great privilege of interviewing her in front of policymakers because we need our policymakers to understand this idea and this continuum of housing insecurity.

She is just a gracious, gracious, beautiful, smart human who has really joined our calls, from Zoom. It’s 7:00, 8:00 p.m. in New York. And just really about the mission and the issue. She thinks it’s solvable here because of our scale, and we hope by organizing philanthropy and government, we can have greater communication around the resources we’re deploying towards these six goals.

And to me, it’s my favorite space to be in because it’s not one foundation by itself that can address a larger systemic issue. It’s all of us talking to one another, knowing the different risk aversions of someone’s board, or their ability to do something because of a governmental restraint, and how we think about that capital collectively and where we can deploy it to fill holes.

Denver: Yeah, I…

Christopher: So it’s a lot of fun.

Denver: Yeah. Yeah. No, it sounds that way. One of the greatest lessons I think that Rosanne has imparted to all of us was her experience she had with Housing First, where she wanted to put 100,000 people into housing.

And I think what they ended up is doing 105,000, but the kicker there is that the homelessness rate went up in every one of those communities. And then she recognized that you can’t be looking at what you’re doing. You have to be looking at the problem and looking at functional zero in getting it down.

And I have said this to so many people: if you can stop looking at what your organization has achieved and accomplished, and start looking at the broader problem, and is it getting better or worse, and if it’s getting worse, no matter what you’ve achieved, you maybe want to rethink how you’re going about it because…

Christopher: Recalibrate.

Denver: Recalibrate. And I think that this sometimes involves us getting the board to be reeducated as to what success is going to be. 

One of the manifestations of what you talked about was the Lamplighter Initiative, correct?

Christopher: Mm-hmm. That’s right. That’s right, motel conversion. Yes, exactly right, which was a partnership in a few ways.  It was impact investments, so for a community foundation our size, we dedicate a portion of our endowments towards impact investing, which is essentially below market lending, guarantees, ways we can put capital towards great social benefit.

And we did that in partnership with our colleagues at Anchorum, the foundation there, and worked with the city to kind of get through permitting. We had to hold the property to get things cleared before we had a Cert. of Occupancy. It’s tricky business developing units just as a market rate.

It’s even harder to bring affordability into it because you have a layer cake of financing with different timelines and different accounting schedules. So it’s not for the faint of heart, but I do believe that that’s something we point to as a solution because it was a dilapidated motel that we’re now able to make beautiful, support some of the most vulnerable families in our community, and we want to do more of those collectively.

And the great thing about working in tandem regularly with the city and county is you’re building trust and rapport with key actors. And so they know that we’re not there to publicly shame somebody; we’re actually there to problem solve and facilitate what we all care about, which is putting units in service to help vulnerable individuals and families.

And to your point around functional zero, one of the things that we’re really– at the sage counsel of Rosanne– is to say, Hey, how we track this problem, we have to have an apple-to-apple understanding of the data and a defensible way that we track understanding homelessness and where the acuity and where people are across the city and county.

And that’s part of her lessons that she’s learned, and she’s imparting that wisdom to us. So that’s where we’re prioritizing some of our work, to bring some of these coordinators and staff positions to our New Mexico Coalition to End Homelessness, to kind of own that and kind of understand what’s happening across systems.

Because to your point, there’s sort of an analogy. I think Gretzky once said it: If you’re worrying about where the puck is, versus where it’s going, you won’t get to greatness. Well, similarly, we need to know… to your adage earlier, Well, if we’re just worrying about what we’re doing and not what’s happening, what’s coming around the corner, then we’re going to not reach our potential collectively.

Denver: Yeah. And one last point on that is that you treat those individuals who are unhoused as individuals, and not as a demographic.

Christopher: Exactly right.

“We have to really understand the limitations of what a city and county can and can’t do, and know how we maximize our role as philanthropic partners. I do think like how we lever impact investments and grants towards unlocking bigger things the city and county can do is where we’re really hitting our best kind of stride, and I think, something we have to kind of constantly be a part of.”

Denver: And the idea to this model, you know everyone’s name, the way a doctor would know your name, maybe even a little bit better than some doctors who just wonder, who may have you fill out a chart and wonder who you are.

Yeah, but let me pick up on this idea of collaboration because this is really at the heart of what you’re doing, and S3 is just a great example of it. Chris, what do you think makes a collaborative effort successful, and what are some of the things that can lead to a failure?

Christopher: Wow. I would say that success for a collaborative effort is knowing what you can and can’t do to some extent, like your organizational guardrails, because making promises you can’t keep does not deepen trust. It actually exacerbates frustration and feelings of, like, this person isn’t authentic.

And for me, as in coming in, I really want… if change happens at a speed of trust, then we have to build, strengthen, and foster authentic relationships with each other and our community and our supporters. So collaboration, to me, really is about authentic relationships and long-term relationships, which is my mantra as we move through the world here at our community foundation. We have to be about long-term authentic relationships.

So collaboration, that’s how I walk through the doors to really understand. I do a lot of one-on-ones with all of the actors in that collaborative space, just to kind of understand where they’re calling from. They can ask me questions about my past… why did I move here? All of these things that people may be wondering about.

And that helps smooth out some of the hesitation because you have to be able to share what’s not working well or a failure in a collaboration. And no one’s really willing to go out on that skinny branch if you don’t have trust and rapport. So that’s a big part of it. I think failures come at not recognizing how we maximize our effort as a philanthropic collaborative or philanthropic public collaborative.

We have to really understand the limitations of what a city and county can and can’t do, and know how we maximize our role as philanthropic partners. I do think like how we lever impact investments and grants towards unlocking bigger things the city and county can do is where we’re really hitting our best kind of stride, and I think, something we have to kind of constantly be a part of.

It’s not a cookie-cutter approach based on the Lamplighter deal is going to be very different than like a different hotel conversion or a LIHTC, low-income housing tax credit deal. Like we have to really think about our roles in those things as they come up. But to me, not to make it simple, it all comes down to relationships of rapport and trust because these things are uncomfortable.

You’re talking about NIMBYs and folks that don’t want these things. There’s a court of public opinion that we have to win in. It’s hard to do these deals as I mentioned earlier. So the more we’re connected to one another and have a bond of being able to share where we missed a step and not get hung up on that.

We talk about it to not repeat it. That’s the special place where you can have that really beautiful collaborative diagram, of the Venn diagram, if you think about that middle where that cross hatching happens. But it takes work, so right now we’re meeting weekly on S3 and I attend those personally because we don’t want to lose momentum from Rosanne’s visit.

And we know we’re in this really critical point, this sort of jumping-off point to really get the data straight, make sure we’re ground truthing things, and that we can go out to our community or our donors soon after to talk about the solutions because you know, this bears repeating, and my philosophy is: A donor is going to fund a solution, not a problem. So you have to be able to articulate the solutions and what it took to get there.

Denver: Yep. Yep. No, those are great points. And I would really echo what you say about relationships. And I think that the fault lines we have here in this country is that we’re almost too solutions-oriented, that when we get together, we need the common playbook: What’s the goal? What’s the objective?

And you almost have to say, take a little time and get to know each other and build some trust. That’s what you really have to do, and sometimes we don’t have the patience to really spend that time, but it pays off so many times over by doing that.

How has the COVID crisis and racial reckoning over the past three years impacted the foundation, Chris?… I mean, your approach, your priorities, the way you go about doing your work.

Christopher: We activated and created a statewide fund called All Together New Mexico in partnership with our sister community foundations in 2020. And the governor was a great champion for this fund. So we were able… as you know, community foundations really hit their stride in times of crisis, and we have that public foundation vehicle to take donations and mobilize them.

So we jumped into that in a way that was very, very influential and great. And we had to find a way to kind of address every county in our state and look at how we, again, talk about collaboration– collaboration with community foundations and their geographic footprints and not tipping into turf.

I think what the COVID crisis did is allow us to kind of get beyond that to something that was hitting all of us. So in a sense, it’s allowed for some collaboration in great ways that we were able to reactivate during our state’s largest wildfire in the spring of 2022. So that’s certainly something that has a lasting impact on how we work and how we’re able to mobilize.

 I think as someone who is a macro social worker and was trained to think systemically and look at the forces perpetuating inequity, redlining and systemic and institutional racism is something I’ve been thinking about for decades in my career. And I do think housing is a way you look at that because it is a human right, and it disproportionately impacts, in terms of homelessness, those who are BIPOC in almost every community.

And that you can trace back to systemic reasons in terms of institutional, systemic racism and how public education is funded here and how we concentrate poverty. So I don’t mean to not answer that directly. I would say that when we went through a strategic plan, the value of equity is our first value that is sort of an undergirding, the how we move through the world.

As I mentioned at the outset, we’ve had identity-based funds here since the ’90s supporting a Native American community as well as our LGBTQ+ to Spirit community. But we wanted to put equity in terms of a recognition of systemic injustice as a priority, in terms of how we move through the world.

Community foundations are intermediaries. We are not running programs, generally speaking. So how do we live that value really boils down to like ideas around procurement, how we are thinking about facilitators for our Learning Hub, the programming in our Learning Hub. We have a Women of Color Leadership Institute that’s been going on for several years, since ’17, I believe, that now has an alumni network, which is beautiful and amazing.

That we’re thinking about how we lever those folks into leadership. And I think also how we think about our staff and board, those are the first-degree areas where we can really live this value, and then not shy away from these issues, and create space for these conversations often through our Learning Hub.

But also sometimes, we’re meeting with folks that want to look at other identity-based funds that we could help facilitate and support because of our longstanding support of the Native American Advised Fund and the Envision Fund, respectively.

So I think we live these things every day, but we have to be open to feedback. I’m going to make mistakes, and I have, right? But I have to be open to that feedback on where I misstepped, and commit to not repeating that mistake in terms of whether it’s a DEI issue or how we step through the world because we want to keep motion. We want to keep stepping through and having progress.

So we can’t be bashful, but we have to be open to critique, particularly on lines around inclusion, othering and belonging. I’m really a fan of John Powell as someone, you know… in his institute of Othering & Belonging, I just think it’s such a brilliant framework, and that’s something we think about internally and externally.

Denver: Yeah. And also, there’s a lot of challenges in keeping that balance between systems change and long-term systemic change, which really a community foundation is uniquely suited to do.

And then the play space work and the immediate needs of what people need today. And you’re always trying to say, can we get a two-fer on this one? Or what can we do? But there is that balance that I think all community foundation leaders are looking…

Christopher: Yeah, it’s the today versus tomorrow conundrum. And so some of our… we launched a Resiliency Fund when we turned 40. And the beauty of that fund was really to support the capacity for recovery, not only from emergency events, but to dismantle systems of oppression and protect our land for generations to come.

So this is an endowed fund that will have a spendable… like what kind of goes towards those ends. But what we’ve done is allow a gift to be split between endowment and spendable to cover the today and tomorrow issue. So that’s the percentage split. So we invest in tomorrow, but we recognize the needs of today.

When we created that fund, we did not know the state’s largest wildfire would be in our backyard. But because we had donors that stood with us when we turned 40 and put money in, we could deploy things that first week, like right away. And it was a way that we had that kind of adaptive leadership as a team to really meet weekly and address those needs through that vehicle.

But you’re right, the balance of the needs of today and the perpetuity of tomorrow and the promise of tomorrow is something always… we have to make sense of… that duality… is something we have to make sense of.

Denver: I should have launched a resiliency fund when I was 40. I would’ve been a lot better off.   Darn, I missed it.

Talk a little bit about Native philanthropy, and I know you have a lot of relationships there. We just touched on them. You touched on them earlier. Speak a little bit about that work.

Christopher: Well, the leadership of our all-Native advisory committee, our Native American Advised Fund, enhances Native lifeways now and for future generations by promoting a spirit of sharing and supporting. And really, my feeling is: we are of service for their vision. It is a space… I attend those meetings personally, and I tend to listen three times before speaking because there’s so much wisdom in the room… and they know this state, they know their communities, and they know their needs.

And so what we do is really facilitate their leadership and help make the case for donors that may not be as aware of the issues. So one of the things I’m doing currently with this committee is in our next meeting next month, we really want to talk about: how do each of these Native leaders on our fund, what is their pitch to a friend or colleague for this fund?

And we’re going to gather all of their information and then really look at and distill it, and then institutionalize that here so that our staff that are non-Native are putting those ideas that are Native-led around development and advancement on the… that’s in being embedded on the front foot.

This is a way we live our value of equity too, is we listen, distill, and we reflect back to make sure we got it right. And then we pull that into our development and donor relation work so that when someone’s opening a fund, we’re lifting up the voices in the most authentic way possible to support that fund.

And so that’s more of a process answer to your question, but I want to land there because it’s really important that the process gets to the right result in that space. And there is such beautiful wisdom. And our chairperson, Jhane Myers, is someone that I always am learning from.

She’s an incredible human being; this is a woman of great import and great agency, and is leading this fund for us and for our state and for our community.

So I’m always inspired by our leaders and try to be of service to them, in their vision. So that’s just a way we’re thinking about shifting some things here, to really put their voices at the heart of how we position the request, or put the option out to a donor in our engagement side of things.

“So it’s that beautiful dialogue you have as a community foundation and thinking about how to best honor someone’s philanthropic passions and legacy, and meet the needs of today in a perpetual gift of tomorrow. So I love that intersection. It really is where you get so energized working at a community foundation because you get inspired by generosity every day.”

Denver: Well, you want to be the best possible ambassador that you can, and there is a process that goes into it, and it’s important.

Let’s turn to the philanthropic side of the ledger, and I could start with a boring question or two, but maybe I’m going to begin with the fact that you just received your largest gift ever. Tell us about it.

Christopher: We did. Yes. The Fishbein family are wonderful Santa Feans. They were coming to Santa Fe since the ’80s and then moved here probably 20 or 30 years ago. And this is a beautiful endowed gift to support the arts here, environmental issues, and animal welfare.

But they also… the living family member who brought this estate to us was very keen and open to ideas of us doing multi-year funding. What we realized is if… we do a lot of core operating support here through our small competitive grants process… This endowment will further the reach of those competitive grant processes in those field of interest areas.

But one of the things…the  carve-outs we were able to do in sitting down with the existing family member is say, What if we were able to take a portion of this endowment and still have those focus areas be supported? But we could maybe do a different process that was multi-year, that was investing in either a rising grassroot group… maybe it’s an established nonprofit that could use a multi-year gift to do other fundraising off of it.

So could we… we’ve been hearing that need for multi-year support. And that’s the beauty of having a dialogue with someone who’s thinking about… who is going to bring a gift to you at the origination of it and saying, Would you be open to thinking this way? And here’s how we think we could support our community.

And all credit to the Fishbein family and their living relatives that were open to that idea. They thought it would totally be the spirit of Marty and Debbie Fishbein who would be into that. And also, part of the gift is supporting scholarships at our institution here, IAIA, which is an indigenous college that supports the arts, and also the Folk Art Museum here.

So a couple anchors got support. Our grant making got support, and then we’re able to do a new sort of carve-out that we’re going to have to establish in the coming months around multi-year grants. So it’s that beautiful dialogue you have as a community foundation and thinking about how to best honor someone’s philanthropic passions and legacy and meet the needs of today in a perpetual gift of tomorrow.

So I love that intersection. It really is where you get so energized working at a community foundation because you get inspired by generosity every day. It is a beautiful gift and a privilege to work in a place at this perch.

“…we have an operating plan that supports our strategic plan that is in this really amazing software that any team member can see how we’re tracking on key goals, and if we’re tracking ahead, we’re on pace, we’re behind, and what the rationale is. And I think that’s healthy because folks know what their priorities should be. 

Everyone wants to do a good job, I believe that. But if they don’t know how to prioritize their work, then there could be frustration right down the road.”

Denver: And I also think the example in the model that this multi-year gift can make to others, I get very concerned that we did have a tendency to go in that direction when COVID hit, and you’re always being wary of the snapback.

Are we going to continue with these unrestricted gifts? Are we going to continue with these multi-year gifts? …which never really took off that much. But you wonder how soon business as usual will return. And we’re all hoping and working to see that it never, ever does.

Let me ask you a little bit about leadership. Boy, it’s been three incredible years. With everything that’s happened in the sector, everything that’s happened in the world, Chris, what do you think are some of the most important attributes of a successful leader today?

Christopher: Adaptability would, you know, not to…What’s the word? I’d be too obvious here, but I think that means knowing sort of your North Star on why you’re working at a place, but being open to understanding others’ points of view. So having, I would say, an actualized emotional intelligence about how you manage is pretty key.

Because you want folks to feel seen and heard. You want folks to feel invested in our mission in our organization. And if our community deserves our best, are we doing our best for our team? And is our team doing our best for our community? These are the questions we have to answer each other in terms of being a leader of an organization and really putting things on the rails and having good guardrails as well around our values that undergird things.

The other thing that we’ve done here that I’m quite excited about, and this is very managerial nerdy, but we have an operating plan that supports our strategic plan that is in this really amazing software that any team member can see how we’re tracking on key goals, and if we’re tracking ahead, we’re on pace, we’re behind, and what the rationale is. And I think that’s healthy because folks know what their priorities should be.

Everyone wants to do a good job, I believe that. But if they don’t know how to prioritize their work, then there could be frustration right down the road. But we put that into an operating system here. And it’s really been great for me because I can literally pull up the plan on my phone if I have a meeting with a donor or a board member and know what’s happening, but so can any team member who’s connected to that system and that process for us. So I think that’s healthy, too.

And lastly, I worked with a colleague of mine, and she does StrengthFinders, the CliftonStrengths model. And it’s an asset-based approach to understanding strengths of your team members. But I did it with my entire board and staff. I didn’t just do it with staff.

And so it’s just good to understand how folks walk through the world. And this was a process that’s been iterated through my colleague, Lisa Spinali. And that’s been really beautiful, too, because I can go deep on dyads where I have direct reports, and understanding how I have a greater endurance.

I could work a 10-hour day and exhaust people around me. But others need to recharge differently, so understanding like how our strengths line up, what we need to be mindful of, I think has also been key. And that’s something we’re going to kind of maintain as we bring new staff members in and that kind of thing. So…

Denver: Did you learn anything about yourself that surprised you?

Christopher: If I do my top five, I think it’s achiever, strategic, relator, belief, and I’m blanking on the other one. But my belief can be, I have such a… because as a social worker, you have to do such deep work on yourself, on like: Why am I answering the call to address systemic issues as an individual?

So that leads to a pretty codified sense of self and a belief system. And sometimes there can be rigidity there because I’ve done such hard work for 20 years thinking about that. I have to be open to where that belief system may be a little more rigid, or come off as rigid, more rigid than it is.

Denver: Sure.

Christopher: So that’s been something that’s…and I also feel like you have to be open to learning. I’m a learner. That’s my fifth one. That’s…

Denver: There you go.

Christopher: Yeah. And so as a learner, I really want to hear ideas, and I have to kind of balance the deep dive on a podcast or a book or a series and keep that in check. But I do want to learn with and from one another, and that helps me stay present, because being present is key to adaptability. And you have to really put the work in to be present, I think.

Denver: Yeah. These belief systems, I encounter the same things sometimes. I mean, they’re great to have, but they sometimes can hold you in place because it becomes our identity. And it’s really your ego. Not in the big egotistical way, but in sort of: it’s super ego, ego way.

And to let go of it, it’s like, well, who am I? And will people know who I am? But if you don’t let go of it, you’re going to be stuck there, and you’re not going to grow. And that’s kind of that push and pull that we all need to go through.

 There’s been a changing of the guard in community foundations around the country. You’re relatively new, and so is Oregon and Seattle and Washington DC and New York City and Rochester and Atlanta and others.

I was just wondering if you had any thoughts, when you get a cohort like this at really key places across the country, all coming in together over a relatively short period of time, how that could maybe impact the way we all look and think and perceive community foundations.

Christopher: Well, I think it’s tremendously exciting. I’m so embedded in place these days because I set up internal systems and then was setting up sort of our external promise as I’ve mentioned earlier, in terms of how we collaborate locally, that I’m just getting to that place now to look up a little bit beyond the New Mexico horizon to a national horizon.

And I find it inspiring and exciting because the more I can learn and grow from others that are kind of rising in their leadership, and articulating and learning needs, I’m always open to that. And I think that’s what’s exciting about what the Council on Foundations is doing this year.

They have a Leading Locally conference that’s going to be in Denver, Colorado. And that’s really pulling together not only community foundations, but place-based funders. This is something I was advocating for at the Council 10 years ago, and contribute to Kathleen and her team to listening.

They’re going to alternate a place-based national conference; they’re going to do it every odd year, essentially, which I think is tremendously exciting in a way to connect with these new leaders. And folks are going to bring new ideas, technology, and how we lever technology to engage, to pick an obvious one.

But there’s so many layers and nuance just to that idea, for instance, in terms of what’s happened in the last 10 years in terms of tech, on how we’re levering it.

Denver: I would say, Chris, what’s happened in the last 10 minutes. You know?

Christopher: Yes. Exactly.  Well, I was referencing what I was pushing on 10 years ago at the Council. I mean, to your point, it’s always this iterative idea of how we serve, learn, and maximize our potential.

And I think you’ve said it in past interviews, community foundations are at a really unique perch. We get to see across a local jurisdiction in a manner that a specific nonprofit won’t see. And for no fault of their own other than just how they’re organized and how they’re driving on their mission.

So how do we look at across… How do we lever that perch for good, and how do we think and what we’re hearing and learning, and then what are other leaders doing, I think, is exciting. I look forward to learning from those newer folks, like myself.

“And I want to maximize our accountability to each other and our community at the end of the day because our community deserves our best effort. So we have to have a competitive urgency around issues of poverty and vulnerable individuals and families. Like, if you don’t have competitive urgency around that, you aren’t listening and aren’t present with what’s happening.”

Denver: Finally, Chris, if you were good enough to come back on the show three years from now, what would you hope to be able to tell me about the achievements and impact of the Santa Fe Community Foundation on Santa Feans and on the sector at large?

Christopher: I appreciate that question. We just embarked on a three-year strategic plan, so it would be a good time to check in and see our… the efficacy of our…

Denver: We’ll get a date.

Christopher: But you know, what we’re trying to do, I mentioned our Resiliency Fund, is really inspire greater resources that allow us to meet the moment. And this is not unlike a lot of community foundations. They’re thinking: How do we have more resources that have less restrictions so that we can meet the moment? We’re the largest nonprofit funder in the state of New Mexico, in the entire state, at the Santa Fe Community Foundation.

And so the other thing that we have to do is really, in doing that, our donors are a huge part of that factoid. And so are we levering and inspiring and engaging our donors? Are we maximizing our effort to kind of get them engaged and inspired on what is relevant, local, and timely?

And that’s something that we’re going to embed in our practices, whether it’s hearing how our Native American leaders talk about the fund, and embedding that into our kind of donor meetings, to doing activations that we call learning together, where we are pulling donors in to do a site visit, or to meet other donors who have shared passions because we also want to bridge social capital there.

So I think that’s key. And another key part of our strategic plan that we’re pushing on in three years, like a lot of us, we want to be the employer of choice. Are we levering systems and tech to give the best work experience for our employees? Because I can’t do any of this without my team.

So having a VP of People and Culture was one of the first moves I made. That’s Jennifer Trujillo on our team. And Jennifer keeps me honest and keeps my feet to the fire, too about: This is what we have to do, and this is where we want to monitor and engage in our culture. And it’s a process of change with a new leader, always.

But how do we get to that– from that storming to performing and norming in terms of our culture, and have those check-ins around how our team is doing and how we’re being an employer of choice to give our community our best effort? And that’s what at the end of three years, I think if we do those things, it’ll be a multiplier effect on things like the S3 Fund, the Envision Fund, the Native American Advised Fund, because we’re showing up in a really concerted way.

And I want to maximize our accountability to each other and our community at the end of the day because our community deserves our best effort. So we have to have a competitive urgency around issues of poverty and vulnerable individuals and families. Like if you don’t have competitive urgency around that, you aren’t listening and aren’t present with what’s happening.

And so that’s where I come from. It’s like that urgency is not because my ego wants this done. It’s actually because I’ve sat enough in rooms with working families who were a life event away from being on the streets to know we were losing ground. So we have to… if we maximize our efforts at community foundation, I feel good about that and know we’re doing our best.

And all these things that I’m talking about, in three years’ time, should give us, hopefully, a stronger response to vulnerable individuals and families in our communities.

Denver: Yeah. This is not a case of manufactured urgency. It is real, real urgency.

Christopher: It is very real.

Denver: Every hour of every day.

Chris, tell listeners about your website and the kind of information they might be able to find on it.

Christopher: Sure. It’s, is our website, and you can find a lot about our core issue areas that we spoke about today, from housing, Native American issues, to LGBTQ+ issues. And you can learn ways you can support our communities and our work.

And Denver, it has been an honor and a privilege to be here and to be in conversation with you about communities, philanthropy, and a better tomorrow.

Denver: Well, thank you so much for being on the show and for doing this. It was a real delight.

Christopher: Likewise.

Denver Frederick, Host of The Business of Giving serves as a Trusted Advisor and Executive Coach to Nonprofit Leaders. His Book, The Business of Giving: New Best Practices for Nonprofit and Philanthropic Leaders in an Uncertain World, is available now on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

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