The Envision Fund: Leading LGBTQ+ Philanthropy in New Mexico since 1997
The story of New Mexico's first and largest LGBTQ+ funder
June marks Pride Month — and an ideal opportunity to celebrate the 26-year anniversary of the Santa Fe Community Foundation’s Envision Fund. Envision is the first and largest LGBTQ+ funder in the state of New Mexico, with over one million dollars made in grants since its inception.
The Fund was launched in 1997 via a collaborative funding initiative through the National Lesbian and Gay Community Funding Partnership (LGCFP).
Liz Bremner, former president and CEO of SFCF, recalls the energy and vitality of that period in the Foundation’s life:
“I arrived in 1993, and I was so impressed by the thoughtfulness and deep pride that folks took in this organization. It was very all-hands-on-deck.”
When the opportunity to apply for a multi-year LGCFP grant arose, she says, it prompted the Foundation’s board and staff “to consider what SFCF really stands for,” she says. “And it became clear — we’re here to serve the whole community.”
SFCF was one of 38 community foundations across the country that received grants to establish LGBTQ+ funds. At the time, such initiatives — in which national funders pool and distribute funds to local and community-based foundations — were rare in the philanthropic world.
The funding filled a key gap. At the time, another Santa Fe organization — Hope House — was serving people affected by AIDS, but “there really weren’t many other nonprofits in our region addressing LGBTQ+ issues more broadly,” Bremner remembers. In fact, there was no fund comparable to Envision anywhere in New Mexico.
“We were learning from other community foundations, even within the process of applying for the grant,” says Bremner. SFCF also brought on an LGBTQ+ board member, Sarah Barber, and began holding community meetings around how the new fund might take shape.
While the grant provided much-needed funds to support initial grantmaking, it required a 1-1 match. The LGCFP committee, which included both board and community members, were charged with raising the needed funds. “Our big fundraiser was a showing of Angels in America, Tony Kushner’s powerful play. That helped bring in a range of folks who might not otherwise have known about the challenges facing New Mexico’s LGBTQ+ community. Before the sold-out show, I walked out onstage in angel wings to ask for the final $5,000 we needed to get the initiative off the ground, and a local man agreed to be our angel and supply the funds.”
The LGCFP Fund’s early work focused on some of the most prominent challenges facing LGBTQ+ communities in the late 1990’s, including supporting teens facing isolation and homelessness because of their sexuality. “One of our first grants supported Youth Shelters and Family Services to designate a bed for an LGBTQ+ youth who didn’t have any other place to stay,” says Bremner. “We also funded the Mountain Center’s therapeutic and support groups for LGBTQ+ youth, as well as the Rape Crisis Center’s (now Solace Crisis Treatment Center) services for those who had been victims of violence.”
“It wasn’t just young people, though,” notes Bremner. Many LGBTQ+ elders in Santa Fe were also facing isolation.
“Some had come out during an era when they didn’t have family support. They had survived the AIDS epidemic, but many had lost friends and communities along the way. And, of course, many still faced stigma.”
The LGBTQ+ community also had fewer legal rights than it does today. “We put together estate planning workshops to ensure that LGBTQ+ community members could plan for their own and their families’ futures,” says Bremner.
As supporting the region’s LGBTQ+ community became more fully integrated into the work of the Foundation, the board and staff itself grew and evolved. “We were required to participate in national meetings for the grant, and I traveled to one of them with a board member. This person confessed to me, 'I wasn’t raised with this,' and we had long and enriching conversations about what it means to step outside our comfort zones and recognize the needs of others in our communities — people who’ve had very different experiences.”
“The LGBTQ+ community’s challenges are basic human rights — to marry, have families, have access to healthcare, work and live good and fulfilling lives without discrimination,” says Bremner.
As the new fund gained momentum, its endowment grew. Foundation leadership, board members, and volunteer members of the committee helped grow the fund’s assets as did a series of generous legacy gifts. Today, the Fund has an endowment of more than $1M and offers more than $100,000 per year in grants.
In 2012, the LGCFP Fund also changed its name to the Envision Fund, reflecting a broadening understanding of our community and its evolving needs. That same year, the fund established aMarriage Equality Task Force, a time-limited effort to raise funds from local donors to support the efforts of Why Marriage Matters New Mexico.
Today, SFCF collaborates with members of the Envision advisory committee and sister community foundation across New Mexico. Through Envision, we fund nonprofit organizations that align with four main priorities:
- Creating an HIV-free generation in New Mexico
- Combating against LGBTQ+ people in all forms (employment, housing, access to health services, etc.)
- Supporting school-based programs that create a safe environment for all students, including LGBTQ+ students
- Promoting holistic reproductive health and gender-affirming healthcare by ensuring access to comprehensive sexuality education, voluntary contraception, abortion care, and other reproductive/sexual health services
Marsie Silvestro, the Envision Fund's current advisory committee chair is proud of the agility of the fund to meet new and arising needs. She says, “Over the years, the fund has supported organizations serving youth considering suicide, community clinics that provide health services to all members of our community, school curriculums that are inclusive and offer safety to students, rural communities establish safe meeting spaces for gatherings, and support diverse populations seeking to overcome cultural norms, through arts, visibility, and educational programs."
In 2022, grantees included Casa Q, H2 Academic Solutions Scholarship Fund, Heart Gallery of New Mexico Foundation, IndigenousWays, Justice Access Support and Solutions for Health, Mountain Center, New Mexico Gay Men's Chorus, New Mexico Legal Aid, Santa Fe Dreamers, Santa Fe Public Schools Office of Student Wellness, Sky Center/New Mexico Suicide Intervention Project, TransgenderResource Center New Mexico, Tri-M Millennial Music Makers Productions, UNM Truman Health Services, Way Out West Film Fest, and Valencia Shelter Service.
As with SFCF’s other funds, Envision seeks to operate nimbly and respond to community needs as they arise. “Today, trans youth are facing many of the same issues that lesbian and gay youth faced 30 years ago — and we want to be there for them too,” says Christopher Goett, President and CEO of SFCF.
To this end, Envision conducts outreach, education, and advocacy efforts — including through SFCF’s Learning Hub — to help other local organizations learn about the LGBTQ+ community’s needs and opportunities to serve more effectively. In recent years, the Fund has also partnered with the Pride Alliance for an annual community-building event at the Governor’s Mansion.
“Our mission remains the same: to serve everyone in our communities,” says Goett. “Of course, doing that well means staying awake, alert, and tuned-in to new changes and challenges. Thankfully, we have a great team at Envision and a wide network of caring, committed supporters and leaders.”
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