EDITORIAL: A strong tool for progress

Originally published by Omaha World-Herald

BY OMAHA WORLD-HERALD EDITORIAL STAFF

Community foundations are a vital Nebraska resource. The groups bring residents of a community together to identify local needs and pool their resources to address them. Since 1994, these local entities have helped reinvest a total of $323 million in Nebraska communities.

In all, community foundations serve 257 communities in 82 Nebraska counties. This vision and cooperation produce notable examples of progress in communities across the state. Here are just a few examples:

» The Holt County community foundation has helped the north-central Nebraska county recruit 475 young adults and families over the past decade.

» The Nebraska City fund supports workforce development scholarships through Southeast Community College, as well as student leadership development at the middle school and high school levels.

» McCook’s community foundation supports live entertainment, cultural experiences and historical and architectural preservation.

» In Norfolk, community foundation funds support workforce recruitment and high school career academies.

The Nebraska Community Foundation, now in its 25th year, provides important consultation and support for the local funds. The foundation’s online Peer Learning Library shares key examples of Nebraska funds’ work in campaign planning, leadership development, promotions and report writing. Examples are posted at https://www.nebcommfound.org/resources/peer-learning-library.

Over the next four decades, Nebraskans will pass along an estimated $603 billion from one generation to the next. Campaigns by local community foundations provide an excellent way to draw on local resources and support endowments for long-term community needs.

Communities don’t have to be large for their local foundation to make important contributions to local well-being. Since 2002 the foundation for Shickley—a community of 341 in Fillmore County in southeast Nebraska—has granted $392,243 to area nonprofits and village projects, and more than $110,000 to the local school.

The Keith County Foundation Fund, which has been energetic for years with its visioning and financial support, recently received an anonymous, unrestricted estate gift of $7 million. Once the gift reaches full effect, the foundation’s annual disbursements could total a projected $400,000. “We want to invest in things that are ongoing and lasting,” said Ken Snyder, a member of the foundation board.

It’s been especially heartening to see community foundations step forward to help Nebraska communities damaged by this year’s catastrophic flooding. The Nebraska Community Foundation has established three funds to support flood recovery. The funds (sponsored respectively by the Nebraska Bankers Association; First National Bank of Omaha; and the Ethel S. Abbott Charitable Foundation) have raised more than $1.4 million so far.

Among the donations is about $5,000 from Bassett and Springview student athletes who decided to forgo their annual spring trip and gave the money they raised to a family in the Niobrara-Verdigre area who lost everything.

Local foundations are performing an important service, helping communities make it through current tough times while also addressing long-term needs.