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March 7, 2023

Welcoming Change: Improving Our Grantmaking

I invite you to review this Landscape Study, conducted by Insight Allies, which summarizes a 10-year review of our grantmaking practices. We asked grantees and applicants what it’s like to work with us, while also reviewing our own internal practices to better understand how to improve. This study includes: in-depth document and literature reviews, grant data from 2009-2019, 201 grants to 139 organizations in New Mexico, and perspectives from 26 grantee interviews.

Here’s what we learned and what we’re going to do about it.

Lesson 1. Applying for and reporting on a Con Alma grant can be complicated. It isn’t always clear what information we’re requesting or what we do with it.

What We’ll Do. We’ve eliminated the (3) grant types organizations may apply for and have simplified the application and reporting processes. We’ve removed the mid-grant progress report, have transitioned from two to one grant payment, and will disburse grant funds in the same year in which grants are approved.

Lesson 2. Site visits can serve as opportunities to listen and deepen understanding and relationships. But site visits can also be burdensome for both the applicant organization and Con Alma staff and volunteers. Scripted site visits can lead to (unintentional) power imbalances, particularly when site visits are associated with a funding decision.

What We’ll Do. Con Alma has omitted site visits as part of the grant application process. We will re-design “site visits” and consider when they are appropriate or necessary. If conducted, site visits will not be associated with a funding decision – but rather may occur during grant implementation or during an existing event the grantee is hosting.

Lesson 3. Given our modest budget, our relatively small grants may have greater meaning and impact for small and medium-sized organizations (annual budget of $2 million or less).

What We’ll Do. Con Alma will continue to encourage grassroots, small, and medium-sized organizations to apply. Larger organizations will not be excluded from applying. But the review process will ensure that the majority of funding supports organizations with an annual budget less than $2 million.

These are just a few changes we’ve already made, we will respond to other areas of feedback over time. Ongoing quality improvement should be a common practice in every organization – especially a private foundation like Con Alma, which was founded to serve the people in New Mexico.

I extend my sincere gratitude to every grantee, applicant, staff member, and volunteer who contributed to this Landscape Study. And I’m appreciative of Dr. Bloodworth’s expertise in bringing this study to life and providing tangible recommendations that can be implemented in the near term and over time.

Denise E. Herrera, PhD, MCHES
Executive Director
Con Alma Health Foundation
Office: 505-438-0776 x3
denise (at)

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