Building Community Through Philanthropic Passions

Hosted By

Alana Muller

CEO & Founder
Coffee Lunch Coffee

Podcast Guest

Christopher Goett

President & CEO
Santa Fe Community Foundation

Episode Summary

Christopher Goett, President and CEO of Santa Fe Community Foundation, shares how volunteer opportunities throughout his organization have given many people from different backgrounds the unique opportunity to build value-based connections. With understanding being a core part of his organization’s foundation, Chris believes in leading his team through obstacles with patience and grace.

“And you're not doing it in a silo, you're not doing it alone, you're doing it as part of a giving community, which is how you get to meet people with shared values.”



Alana Muller 0:09
Welcome to, a podcast from Enterprise Bank & Trust that's empowering business leaders one conversation at a time. We'll hear from different business leaders about how they found success in cultivating their professional networks and keeping them healthy and strong. I'm your host Alana Muller, an entrepreneurial executive leader whose primary focus is to connect, inspire and empower community. We at Enterprise Bank & Trust thank you for tuning in to another episode.

Alana Muller 0:43
Hello, listeners, welcome back to podcast. I'm delighted to have with me today, Christopher Goett. Chris is a value oriented leader with more than 20 years of experience in community based philanthropy, with a focus on engaging diverse groups of people and driving collaborative change that advances racial and economic equity, improves Community Health and combats housing insecurity. As President and CEO of the Santa Fe Community Foundation, Chris drives the overall strategic direction cohesion and management of a multicomponent Community Foundation comprised of numerous charitable funds and initiatives, Chris Goett, welcome to podcast.

Christopher Goett 01:21
Oh, thank you for having me. It's a pleasure to be here.

Alana Muller 01:23
So glad to have you. I have to tell you, I am especially excited to have you here today. I myself have a particular affinity for community foundations. And I love the work that you're doing. If you would, will you share with our listeners a little bit more about what a community foundation is and why it's beneficial for both donors and grantees alike?

Christopher Goett 01:41
Yes, I appreciate the question. Community foundations are a public foundation or public charity, some would say, that's been around as a movement in America since 1914. And they are this wonderful matchmaking entity that mobilizes charitable donations and philanthropic passions towards nonprofit solutions to a myriad of issues, from animal welfare, arts, education, health, housing. In that wonderful perch that we sit in, almost as an intermediary, as a charitable philanthropic intermediary, that is bridging the knowledge of those nonprofits in their needs and what we're hearing from our community, and the passions of donors who come to us to give through us and with us.

Alana Muller 02:24
I love how you talked about it almost like a matchmaking entity where you are sort of marrying both the interests of the donors and the grantees. Do you find that, you know, you've seen relationships form as a result of that? Are the donations relatively anonymous, how does that work?

Christopher Goett 02:41
It's actually arranged. Some donors want their name out of anything, they're very egoless, they just want their resources going to a credible nonprofit solution and organization. Others want to be in the mix more, they want to give their time, talent and resources to an organization and will volunteer on their board and give resources as a donor to them. So it's a wide range. I think it's one of those things that in our donor development and donor relations work, we have to meet a donor where they are and just kind of understand, you know, how they want to walk through the world and giving back.

Alana Muller 03:16
Can anybody have a Donor-Advised Fund? Is there a minimum amount that a donor has to start with to become part of the foundation?

Christopher Goett 03:24
Yes, the answer is yes, anyone can be a donor. There is a requirement in ours for an Endowed Donor-Advised Fund, there's a minimum threshold. But we also have these wonderful giving circles that are lower thresholds, for those who want to give towards a cause. We have had an Envision Fund here since 1997, supporting the LGBTQ+ community in the state of New Mexico, we have a Native American Advised Fund that supports issues across the state of our native and indigenous communities since 1993.

Christopher Goett 03:54
We just launched the Earth Seed Community Fund to support Black life, arts and culture across New Mexico. And then we have a Next Gen Giving Circle, which is for younger philanthropists, people who want to pool their donations towards collective issues and discuss them. That's our Next Gen Giving Circle. So I love seeing those as on ramps you know, for people who have a particular passion, you know, for a particular population or issue area. You don't have to be a person that has super high net worth wealth, you know, to open a fund or be involved in giving here.

Alana Muller 04:26
I can still relate to that next gen concept I remember, you know, about a million years ago when I was actually eligible to be part of a next gen giving circle. You know, in those days, I didn't perceive that I had enough money myself to actually be part of something that was meaningful in terms of giving. And so participating in a giving circle was a such a fabulous way to get involved.

Alana Muller 04:49
I remember one giving circle I was involved with was through the Kansas City Community Foundation here in my own hometown. And I think it was about $1,000 to be part of that for my husband and myself, and then another one through the Jewish Community Foundation, which I personally have continued to be very involved with over the years. And those were, that was kind of the 'on ramp' so to speak. And so the fact that you have so many different types and varieties of giving circles, I think is such a nice way to get more people involved in the beauty of giving. So that's great.

Christopher Goett 05:20
And you're not doing it in a silo, you're not doing it alone, you're doing it as part of a giving community, which is how you get to meet people with shared values. The idea of networking with people who have something in common, using philanthropy and giving back as sort of an engine for seeing where that Venn diagram is of people that like, why they walk through that door, and how you connect with someone and have a purposeful, you know, interaction, you know, with someone in your community. So I think it really adds another intrinsic value to those who get engaged as a donor.

Alana Muller 05:51
Yeah, so special, I really like that. Let me turn the lens on you personally. How do you actively manage your own network? Because you're part of so many different types of organizations, both professionally and as a volunteer. How do you manage your own network?

Christopher Goett 06:03
That is a good question, I would say I do it better some days than others. I think I touch so many parts of our community and it's really a privilege, you know, that I get to engage. I always say to my wife, you know, I get faith in humanity restored daily when I'm working with either a nonprofit leader tackling a really important problem and mobilizing a staff around that, or a donor that is coming to us because they want to make a difference and help.

Christopher Goett 06:26
So I get to live in that hopeful space. But it does mean that I have a lot of folks who want to connect and understand because I get it from all sides of that spectrum. So I have to be mindful of how I delegate that to amazing executive team members who can take on a meeting versus the meetings I need to be in as a president and CEO, in particular, and just having that discussion as a management team.

Christopher Goett 06:50
Because you have to kind of have the concerted relationship strategy, but leave space for the organic, credentialed meeting. Like, 'hey, you should talk to this person', I was like, ‘I gotta pay attention to that referral.’ And so you got to have the plan, but also have space for the organic things that just will sprout up. So it's an art and a science…

Alana Muller 07:09
I would say it’s an art and a science, I can totally appreciate that. And I like the notion though that, you know, it's sort of, you actively manage it. That was the question I asked you. And that's literally what you just described, that you're thinking strategically about which meetings should you take yourself. How do you get your team involved, so that it's sort of a team sport. And I really liked that. I think that makes good sense. And probably the community is getting a bigger benefit from it. And hopefully, you personally are getting some benefit along the way as well.

Christopher Goett 07:36
Yeah, that's a good summation. And it's our service standard of how we serve our community and everyone from a donor to a nonprofit as a part of our community. And so we have to just think about, you know, how do we have that service standard that's sustainable? So how we pull together and figure out who does what is key to that.

Alana Muller 07:52
So talking about your team, what is something that you're working on professionally, or that the foundation is working on, that you're particularly proud of, and who are some of the key players involved in that effort?

Christopher Goett 08:02
I'm really proud that we went through a strategic planning process, and we didn't stop there. We created an operating plan that really creates a whole set of transparency and clarity around who's doing what and who's driving what component of the four strategic goals that we co-created as a staff and board. The day-to-day efforts, you know, the 70 plus lines of effort that are underneath those four goals,collectively. We meet about those monthly, it's a living document, our operating plan.

Christopher Goett 08:30
And this sounds really, you know, managerially in the weeds, but it actually has, like, this wonderful galvanizing component to it. Where we can see around corners, folks can problem solve, they might need input from another business unit that isn't squarely, you know, as the driver of a line of effort, but it enhances the work. So we're using that as an organizing tool amongst our management team. And I would just say, the work -- our success is not me, the success is us as a team and how we serve and show up to our community.

Christopher Goett 09:03
But I will say the thing that motivates me, and this is something I say often, is that our community deserves our best efforts. So being organized and clear about what we can do and what we can't do, is a part of that, is how we show up and give our best effort to our community. We don't want to have inefficiencies, or we don't want to have a lack of clarity on what is our strength versus another entity that we do a thoughtful referral to that can do something better than us. So I think that's a key component that I'm very proud of. And I'm really proud of our directors and vice presidents here who've really stepped up and helped shape that and give that great depth and, and nuance.

Alana Muller 09:40
What's nice about it is that I like how you said you created the strategic plan, which of course is critically important, but then you went a step further and actually have an operational plan. And you know, often and I don't know if that's what you guys did, but, you know, you get your board involved in the strategic elements of that, but they're not involved in daily operations. So that operational plan really gives your professional team some ownership and a sense of, this is what they put together, right?

Christopher Goett 10:07
It's how they contribute to realizing our mission. And then I get to give quarterly updates on how the operating plan’s going, right? You know, from a stoplight report to various things I can speak about why we're ahead on something or behind, we can just start talking about the business reasons why. And the board gets to see these four goals that they spent a lot of time sorting out, they get to see the efficacy of that, you know, and so, to me, that's like a win-win-win, because you have staff feeling invested and having ownership, the board having like, "oh, wow," this is moving, this isn't shelf art, these aren’t just four goals sitting on a cork board. And then for me, it helps me kind of manage expectations on both sides, you know, up to the board and down into the side with my staff. So it's a healthy dynamic. It takes constant gardening, though, it's not something you can just kind of check in every 90 days on, you kind of have to kind of check on it monthly.

Alana Muller 10:55
Well, it's, you know, a living, breathing thing. And in fact, that kind of leads me to another question that I'd love to pose to you. And, you know, of course, that's the challenge question. Things might be going great, great, great. But we all face challenges along the way. So what does that look like in the world of philanthropy? And what are some ways that you and your team have worked to overcome some obstacles that you've faced?

Christopher Goett 11:15
You know, it looks different, in some ways, because, you know, this global snowglobe shake that we've had from the pandemic, and beyond, and all the things leading up to pandemic. It's still not settled, that isn't really settled yet. And what we saw is that the social sector, or nonprofit sector, is extremely fragile. So how we can support their efforts, it looks different.

Christopher Goett 11:43
It's not just money, it might be capacity building, leadership development, thinking about wellness, and thinking about our own wellness. We've all endured a lot through family changes, moves, physical moves, and I think just holding all of that, you know, as leaders is hard some days, and then we have to give ourselves some space and grace.

Christopher Goett 12:04
So one of our values is listening, and how we've defined it as a board and staff is to give each other grace, right? Be hard on the problem, but not hard on people. Because we're all sort of going through this resettling of a shakeup, you know, that was global. So I think those are day-to-day challenges that we just have to be mindful of as leaders and managers, and just to kind of meet people where they are, kind of give each other grace.

Christopher Goett 12:26
But we still have an operating plan where it's not so personal, it's about our efforts as a group and who's leading them, it doesn't become so “you didn't do this versus that,” like, “hey, I need help here. And let's get this sorted and figure this out.” Because we all want to, many of us are achievers on our staff. So we want to keep things on track, but we have to keep the full picture in mind of what we've been through as a society and how that plays out in a managerial day-to-day standpoint.

Alana Muller 12:52
Yeah, so true. So I know that a lot of the charitable organizations that I'm involved with, and including some private foundations, a lot of our focus had shifted during the pandemic to address things like food security, you know, houselessness, et cetera, et cetera. Did you find that the nature of giving or the importance and immediacy of the need shifted for you during the pandemic, in particular?

Christopher Goett 13:17
I have to say that our donors stepped up in an incredible way. They just responded in this most beautiful way to a problem. I think for those who are extremely low income or lower income, who are paying maybe more than they should of their household income on rent. So they're in this fragility life event putting them in a really bad spot, became clearer. I think this notion of affordability and rent burden is clearer for us. And, you know, we're taking some steps with our sister foundations here in town, to address that more systemically with our city and county.

Christopher Goett 13:51
So we're looking at some things that were there before the pandemic, but became more acute during the pandemic around affordability and food insecurity, that I think has given us a little bit more of a focus in terms of how we collaborate with other foundations and how we prioritize my time, you know, in particular, or others.

Christopher Goett 14:10
So, we're still learning though. I hate to say we have it all figured out. I think we have to be open to sort of what we're hearing, you know, from our nonprofit community, our other funding partners, other foundations in town and what others are learning, so we have to be open to that, like, iteration that occurs.

Alana Muller 14:28
A little bit of a shift in the conversation: I'd love to learn a little bit about the professional advisors that you personally surround yourself with. How have they helped you and helped you grow professionally, helped the foundation grow? Who do you call on?

Christopher Goett 14:42
You know, I think it ranges for me. I definitely get a lot of value out of deep connections with other CEOs of community foundations in other parts of the country across the Southwest. Philanthropy Southwest is a wonderful organization that pulls many foundation leaders together, the council foundations where I used to work did this a lot. And, you know, as being a CEO of a community foundation is a very specific kind of work with challenges and benefits that are very unique to having fund holders, donors, you know, needing to respond to elected officials or nonprofits, there's many stakeholders you have to kind of bridge in my space.

Christopher Goett 14:42
So, I get great satisfaction and enjoyment out of just connecting with another CEO and how they're tackling the dynamic that, you know, might feel so specific to your part of the world in Santa Fe, New Mexico, or Northern New Mexico. But there's actually a lot of commonalities in approach and function that has been really rich just to sort of sit with other CEOs in that space. So I get a lot of, I would say energy, out of those spaces.

Christopher Goett 15:46
Of course, I lean on many community leaders just to help ground truth, you know, things, because we're a little further up the tree, in terms of our perch, we're not direct service providers, we are that matchmaking entity. So, there are folks I can go to that have built a rapport with that just kind of keep my feet firmly on the ground about, you know, an issue or an idea and that's helpful, too.

Christopher Goett 16:07
You know, you need those critical friends, you know, the people that can give you critique in a way that, you know, they're coming from a place that they care. Many of us that's our spouse or partner in our life that holds that mirror up to you. But in work, you know, you need those colleagues that can just help you see around a corner or a blind spot.

Alana Muller 16:24
It's one of those things said with love, "I have some feedback for you." Right? So...

Christopher Goett 16:29
Yeah, it's really important. So that takes trust and rapport, and it happens over time. And, but those are connections that I certainly prioritize and value, because I don't pretend to know everything, or have all the answers. If something is coming off the wrong way, I would hope someone would tell me like I would tell someone I care about like, "hey, that the tone was wrong on this," you know, or whatever it might be. That just helps you be a stronger leader, a more connected person, you know, in our case, where you have a mission-driven purpose, you want to make sure you're hitting the mark.

Alana Muller 17:00
I was struck when you said, you know, the ability to reach out across the country on more of a national issue or a topic, and then regionally for something that is really impacting you where you are. Do you find that giving is different or that donor behavior is different in different parts of the country?

Christopher Goett 17:18
It's interesting, I've had the privilege of being in the philanthropic space in a couple of different markets. Baltimore, Los Angeles, Northern New Mexico. And I think someone's impetus to be generous or to give back is not necessarily so different. I think how the social sector and nonprofit sectors organize often is different. And so that's where that matchmaking is important.

Christopher Goett 17:44
We pride ourselves on knowing local, like, if you're giving through us and with us, it's because of our local knowledge. And so that's got to be a part of, as a community foundation, in my view, that's gonna be a part of your way, your ethos, you know, how you move through the world, is how do you know local.And that's through networking and building relationships, you know, and having people who can give you honest feedback on things.

Christopher Goett 18:05
You know, we cover four counties, including Santa Fe County, so we're in Rio Arriba County, Mora County, San Miguel County. These are, you know, to the east and west and north of us a bit. And those are much more rural areas. And so the needs there, and what nonprofits cover there, you know, they may be X-Y-Z nonprofit, but they're taking on A-B-C and D, because they're the trusted source. We had our state's largest wildfire in ‘22 and we learned that, you know, health care providers, our mental health was being what, you know, they were taking care of like firewood and other things that were needed, you know, post-fire, and we went into the winter. So we just, how people flex is very different, I think in a rural space, and I have great reverence for the resilience of a nonprofit sector in a rural space. And I think for us, here in Santa Fe, in northern New Mexico, educating our donors about how those nonprofits show up and step up time and time again, is an important part of our work. So it varies, I think.

Alana Muller 19:05
Kind of getting back to the support that you've gotten from advisors, what's the best piece of business advice you've received?

Christopher Goett 19:12
When I was a young community builder in the San Diego area, I was running a community meeting. And we had a lot of working parents that were coming in to help us understand a built environment and affordability. And I was not as prepared as I could have been on this meeting. And this working mom pulled me aside and said, "Hey, look, I took two buses here and had to arrange childcare, like, please don't waste my time."

Christopher Goett 19:37
And I've never forgotten that piece of feedback. Because it just hit me in the solar plexus, you know, like on so many levels, you know, I was like, oh my goodness, like, I need to be more prepared and do the work in advance because the folks are giving me their time. I should show up and honor that you know, no matter what the context is.

Christopher Goett 19:55
So I think just being mindful and not being so laissez-faire about you know, connection or meeting, doing your prep, if you if you have the time to do that, or I think I would encourage folks to just understand, you know what their self-interest might be or what their why they're engaging with you what they want, it could be to further their career, to understand about a giving opportunity in my case.

Christopher Goett 20:16
And just have that knowledge and that wherewithal, you know, going into the meeting, whether it's lunch or coffee. Because I think it just shows a level of respect that is contagious. And folks will remember how you made them feel versus what you said, right?It's like the Maya Angelou, you know, adage, and I think that's part of it. I think if you show up and you do a little prep, and you are prepared, folks will feel like, wow, that mattered to them. You know, that meeting mattered. And I think that's something as a young, you know, community builder, when I heard that feedback, I've never been unprepared, willingly. It happens. You get whipsawed by the world sometimes. But I do my best to kind of do some prep work and make sure I'm clear on why, what the impetus for the meeting was, and how I'm stepping into that conversation before that even happens.

Alana Muller 21:06
I have to say, even as you said that kind of took my breath away, I can almost feel it was palpable. I mean, you can, you can chew on that feedback. That is tough, but really important. So, really, really useful. Thank you for that. And Chris, as we start to wrap up, there's one question I ask every guest, and I'm eager for your answer. But if you could meet with one person for a cup of coffee, and I don't care if they're living, not living, fictional, nonfictional, who would it be, and why?

Christopher Goett 21:35
My great grandmother was a horse rancher in Chihuahua, Mexico and raised kids mostly on her own. And to do that in the era she did it, I still think about it. And so I would love you know, to have the ability to kind of understand what she went through to bring my grandfather, you know, forward and the like, that's sort of an easy one that is very close to me in terms of my value set and how my parents echoed, you know, their parents' wisdom and values and why I do the work.

Christopher Goett 22:05
The other one in the pop cultural sense is David Bowie, because he's just such a fascinating artist to me and a musician who constantly evolved and never settled. And so, from a creative sense, I would have loved to have, you know, a cup of coffee there, too. So, one familial, one pop culture reference there, so I cheated and gave you two.

Alana Muller 22:24
I love that. So did you know your great grandmother? Did you ever get a chance to meet her?

Christopher Goett 22:27
No, I didn't. She passed before I had that opportunity. You know, I did spend time with my grandfather, it was his mother. We played chess when I was a kid. And I would inquire about, you know what it was like, you know, what that upbringing was like, so I feel like I've gotten a picture, but nonetheless to raise kids in northern Mexico and then eventually get to El Paso. That's a whole story as a woman at that moment, you know, as a matriarch without a husband. It's pretty incredible.

Alana Muller 22:55
That is pretty incredible. And then David Bowie, I mean, gosh, takes me back to junior year in high school, the Glass Spider tour, I mean, come on.

Christopher Goett 23:05
Yeah. And that was one era, right? Glass Spider was one era.

Alana Muller 23:09
One version, right? It doesn't even cover...

Christopher Goett 23:12
Yeah, there's just so much, and he was restless, in a way. I just think he was fascinating. Created personas. And so yeah, so from a creative standpoint, you know, I think it's sort of would be fun to just ask about the creative process and, and what drove him to just constantly, you know, evolve and not settle, right? Like he wasn't just playing the hits all the time. You know, he was pushing on a creative vision, which I think is pretty amazing. For a mainstream artist.

Alana Muller 23:37
I love it. Well, this has been so fun, Christopher Goett. Thank you so much for joining us on podcast. Tell us where our listeners can go to learn more about you and about Santa Fe Community Foundation.

Christopher Goett 23:48
It's been a pleasure. And the easiest place is our website, which is, that's C-F as in community foundation. From there, you can learn all about our mission, vision and causes we highlight on how folks can get involved in our work in Northern New Mexico and across the state.

Alana Muller 24:06
Terrific, wonderful to have you on the program.

Christopher Goett 24:08
Thanks for having me.

Alana Muller 24:08
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