SFCF News and Updates:


Santa Fe Community Foundation Invests in Math Education

November 26, 2017

When the bell rings for class, you might find the middle school students at Carlsbad Academy in New Mexico on the high seas, calculating the number of cannons needed to repel a pirate attack. Or they may be scrambling to determine the number of potential Black Plague patients, the number of medicine vials they will need and the potency of the remedy. The scenarios they receive continue to expand.


The one thing these students won’t be given is a mathematical formula.

In a reversal of the traditional middle school mathematics tutorial, students in over two dozen New Mexico schools are joining their peers in 13 states in an immersive, multimedia approach to mathematics, through MidSchoolMath, an innovative start-up company based in Taos. The goal is to address the “middle school math cliff,” a drop in math proficiency from fourth to tenth grade, according to research sponsored by the National Science Foundation.


Scott Laidlaw, Ed.D., a former middle school math teacher in Taos, New Mexico and Jennifer Lightwood, CPA, CMA launched the company in 2009 with a goal to weave storytelling directly into the teaching process through computer animation, but they didn’t have funding for the advanced, interactive digital toolset or working capital until receiving a $250,000 investment (a loan which was later converted to equity) from the Santa Fe Community Foundation in April 2016.


“The Santa Fe Community Foundation allowed us to continue investing in the product when we absolutely needed to,” Laidlaw says. “Now, our goal is to be the top curriculum provider across the US for fifth through eighth grades. No doubt, without the Foundation’s support, we would not be in this position.”


Now, thanks to that helping hand, students are free to think creatively about math, first immersed in a whole group setting and then working with a simulator individually, helping each other in the program.


“We saw a critical need with the potential for high impact and the leverage that our impact investment dollars could have through an innovation in a local social enterprise start-up,” Joohee Rand, Vice President for Community Investment & Strategy, Santa Fe Community Foundation, said.


The MidSchoolMath approach was found to be 2.3 times more effective than other curriculum providers in a randomized study supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF) -. Subsequently, MidSchoolMath won a $750,000 NSF Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase II grant to commercialize innovative technology by conducting research and development work on the firm’s virtual reality software program.


“With the National Science Foundation grant, we leveraged our capital by three times” the Community Foundation’s Rand said.  Recently, the Foundation was approached by a local school whose contract with the company was threatened by budget cuts.  With support of donors, the Foundation provided a grant to the school to help continue the contract and benefit approximately 400 students.


Multiplying the Impact


The combination of the investment with the grant illustrates the Foundation’s ability to achieve a greater impact using multiple types of funding. It is a model Santa Fe Community Foundation aims to replicate as it welcomes additional investors in bringing MidSchoolMath to more schools and students within the state and all 50 states across the country. The Foundation also seeks to make other impact investments within New Mexico and work with national partners to bring additional capital into the state.

The return on the initial investment into MidSchoolMath has multiplied. The company now has a 50 percent matching grant opportunity up to $500,000 (with a $1 million investment) from the National Science Foundation for any new third-party investment.

To date, MidSchoolMath has received over $2.5 million in grants and investments from federal agencies and local organizations to fund expansion of its comprehensive curriculum with math simulations, games, live-action video, and a 12-employee roster.


Rand sees the value of Santa Fe Community Foundation (and other small community foundations) as place-based investors with on the ground presence to support investments and partner with national foundations who have a relevant mission but lack local knowledge.  Community foundations can also play an important role as an anchor institution that can catalyze and mobilize impact investing in the region.        


Since the 2013 launch of its impact investment initiative, the Foundation’s board has committed up to $4.5 million to impact investing in local companies, organization and funds in a state that is known for its rich culture, history and diversity. New Mexico’s rugged natural beauty is a double-edged blessing, as the state is somewhat isolated with limited access to capital, making the foundation work harder to engage national partners and raise awareness of opportunities. New Mexico struggles with educational achievement, poverty and lack of economic opportunities, as do many low-income states.


The Foundation takes its responsibility as a model for other smaller foundations seriously and looks to have long-term catalytic impact. Initially, the Foundation focused primarily on intermediaries and building capacity together to strengthen local ecosystem for impact investing. Santa Fe Community Foundation has also made direct investments with nearly $2 million invested for impact in 11 local projects and intermediaries.


The results of Santa Fe Community Foundation’s impact investments range from investments to provide homes to low-income and immigrant families to a 20,000-square-foot art complex that brought over 100 local artists in creative collaboration for economic development. The students participating in MidSchoolMath immersive curriculum may one day calculate the future benefits in New Mexico and across the country.


For more information about the MidSchoolMath NSF matching investment opportunity, contact Dr. Scott Laidlaw at or 801.657.1035 or Joohee Rand at or 505.988.9715.

Santa Fe Community Foundation receives Girls Inc.'s 2017 Strong, Smart and Bold Award

October 3, 2017


Girls Inc. of Santa Fe honored the Foundation with the 2017 Strong, Smart and Bold Award at their annual Girls Inc. Gala on September 14, 2017 at the La Fonda on the Plaza. The following is excerpted from Kim Brown, President & CEO of Girls Inc.'s presentation:

"I know, you, just like us, believe in girls and want a world where many more girls grow up Strong, Smart, and Bold. These young women are our future. They will become future leaders and role models for their sisters, brothers, parents, family and friends and the next generation. Your positive contribution will shape our community and our larger society. 

So tonight is all about how we come together and how you make a difference.  Each and every one of you has an opportunity to give back and stand in her corner, to fuel her fire so she can succeed.

It has become clear to me and all of us that we cannot do this alone and it’s important to not only thank you all for joining us tonight and being part of her family but for us to also recognize an organization that has inspired New Mexico communities to be stronger, smarter and bolder for 33 years. 

Our honoree, our Strong, Smart and Bold award winner, is the Santa Fe Community Foundation.  

I was just thrilled when our committee selected the Community Foundation.  Here is an organization so dedicated to the Santa Fe community--- typically the one to honors others, and so deserving.  Their devotion to building healthy and vital communities is so critical for all of us. 

They focus their philanthropy on the critical issues facing our community and help nonprofits, like Girls Inc., become highly effective and achieve our full potential.

They make it more possible for all of us to tackle complex community problems.

As an organization, we have benefited greatly from your hard work.

My staff and I have attended numerous training, networking groups, and events put on by the team at Santa Fe Community Foundation, and I have seen the direct impact that has made on each of us.  My staff, colleagues, and I have become better leaders, more responsive to community needs and all around more intentional at doing our jobs.  

Community philanthropists are more engaged and give more strategically, making a bigger impact on our critical needs. Girls Inc. has received gifts throughout the years and those funds help us make a difference in the lives of girls.

So on behalf of the girls in Santa Fe, and all of us, I am happy to award you with this award.

Thank you for making all of us stronger, smarter and bolder." - Kim Brown, President & CEO at Girls Inc. of Santa Fe

Click here to learn more about Girls Inc., and click here to stay up-to-date on Facebook. 


Your Community Foundation. Your Voice. SFCF Community Conversation - Update

October 2, 2017


The Santa Fe Community Foundation hosted 11 Community Conversations throughout Santa Fe and one in Española in the last several months. Several community members attended the events and discussed areas of concern in the community and how the Foundation might play a role in addressing community obstacles. We look forward to staying in touch with the outcomes of the conversations.

About the conversations:

The conversations are a part of how we are redefining our goals and strategic framework focused on achieving more "equitable access to opportunities" in our communities.

Over the past year, the Santa Fe Community Foundation board and staff have engaged in deep reflection of our work and how we can better serve our community.  As a part of our learning journey, we have partnered in and reviewed many research and community engagement reports already created by our community partners on a broad range of topics to help challenge our assumptions and inform our views of the community.

What does "equitable access to opportunities" look like in our communities? 

In the daily lives of our residents?

In our unique role as a community foundation? 

For our nonprofit and donor partners?

...and how can we make the most impact with our limited resources?

These are questions we are asking ourselves as we map our path forward. We have a sense of the goal, but we do not have answers on how to get there. We know that we cannot achieve the goal without your partnership.