Thoughts On Collaboration From Henry Rael

Since the adoption of our current strategic plan in 2019, the McCune Foundation has remained committed to investing a meaningful portion of its resources in collaborative funding with other Foundations. We remain focused on opportunities that: a) follow the lead of the community; b) support collaborative work with flexible, multiyear, unrestricted funding; and c) support the development of structures that make this funding as easy as possible for foundations and, most importantly, the grantee organizations. McCune joins other foundations working with the New Mexico Association of Grantmakers (NMAG) in developing flexible structures within NMAG that integrate both grants and impact investments to provide a broader range of funding support opportunities to nonprofits.

In our strategic plan, we actually go deeper and express an interest in learning how this collaborative funding can support our open application cycle. Our initial foray into this type of grant making (the NM Collaborative Zone Grant) is now in the second year of implementation grants after an initial year-long planning process and a first year of shared work by grantees. We have been seeing an emergence of relationships among our Zone grantees and grants that happen in our open cycle, but have not yet drawn conclusions about how these relationships can be leveraged.

Meanwhile, in response to the Covid-19 pandemic and its impacts, the next iteration of the “Zone Grant” (now housed at NMAG and the New Mexico Foundation) is focusing on Native American communities and, in particular, Native-led and Native-serving organizations of all sizes that are most directly supporting recovery efforts. In collaboration with Roanhorse Consulting, LLC, the participating funders are looking to Native American communities to identify the most pressing opportunities and impactful organizations that have built trust with their communities. The funders anticipate launching a targeted Request For Proposals (mostly seeking applications from Native-led organizations) in the Spring and will announce it when it is available.

Future collaborative funding enabled by the NMAG structures are also being organized around water conservation in Native communities, pathways to opportunity for young people in Northern New Mexico, infrastructure needs for small-scale New Mexico farmers, family asset building, broadband, and other opportunities that have often been made more clear by the ongoing health crisis.

Putting together a collaborative funding opportunity is, unfortunately, more complicated than it probably should be. Which is why we, along with our partner foundations, are putting in the work to institutionalize collaboration at NMAG so that future collaborative funding endeavors will be easier and more efficient to put together and manage. By walking the walk of collaboration, funders hope to support shared work and fellowship among grantees in deeper ways, reminding us that just about anything great in New Mexico has always been the product of communities working together.

Henry Rael
Director of Strategy and Initiatives