Bahensky, Mekelburg recognized for gift planning excellence

Two members of the Nebraska Community Foundation network recently received recognition for their dedication to building Greater Nebraska through charitable gift planning.

The Charitable Gift Planners of Nebraska (CGPN) honored NCF Board Member Dan Bahensky and Director of Gift Planning Todd Mekelburg during its December meeting in Ashland.

Bahensky received the 2023 Community Sower Award, which recognizes Nebraska professional advisors for outstanding efforts in engaging clients in philanthropy and personal involvement in philanthropy. Board members assess candidates’ impact on quantity and quality of charitable gifts, experience and peer relationships.

Bahensky has been a lawyer in Kearney since 1977 and is a partner in the law firm of Parker, Grossart & Bahensky, L.L.P. He has a deep commitment to community volunteerism, serving on the boards of the Kearney Area Chamber of Commerce, Central Nebraska Goodwill Foundation, Nebraska Golf Hall of Fame and the University of Nebraska Foundation.

He is past president of the Kearney Library Board, Good Samaritan Hospital Foundation, Citizen Advocacy of Central Nebraska and Kearney State College Foundation. Bahensky is past chairman of the Kearney Area Community Foundation, University of Nebraska Alumni Association and Good Samaritan Hospital.

“In my work we get to travel all across this great state and meet with many professional advisors, and Dan is one of the hardest working ones I have ever been acquainted with,” said NCF Gift Planning Advisor Jim Gustafson during the award ceremony. “He gets the job done for his clients.”

Mekelburg received the 2023 J. Robert Sandberg Award, designed to commemorate the dedicated leadership of Bob Sandberg and to recognize notable and distinctive service to the planned giving profession.

“Todd leads by example, facilitating gifts that benefit the organizations and donors, illustrating how important charitable gift planning is for fundraising and for relationship building, and giving back to his field and community himself,” said Give Nebraska Executive Director Melissa Filipi, who nominated Mekelburg for the award. “He’s given so much to the places he has served, and he always puts the donor first and seeks the best possible solutions.”

Prior to joining NCF, Mekelburg served as Director of Planned Giving at Loma Linda University Health in southern California where he helped families realize their charitable gift planning goals. Mekelburg grew up in Yuma, Colorado, but he has a long connection with Nebraska. His great grandparents met and married at Union College in 1893, then farmed in the Lincoln and Amherst communities before eventually settling in northeast Colorado. He attended high school near Shelton, Nebraska and then completed a degree in business administration and accounting at Union College.

Bahensky and Mekelburg are continuing their commitments to helping Nebraskans give back to their communities through Nebraska Community Foundation’s Five to Thrive campaign, which encourages Nebraskans to leave just 5% of their estate to local affiliated funds or charitable organizations benefiting their community. The 2021 Transfer of Wealth Study documented more than $100 billion in Nebraska wealth passing from one generation to another over the next 10 years. Over 50 years, the figure swells to $950 billion. Giving just 5% to local charitable causes would amount to more than $5 billion in the next decade – and $47.5 billion over the next half-century.

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