Dreams Welcome Week Recap

Day Four

That’s a wrap.

Dreams Welcome Week came and went like a whirlwind. Over 275 participants. Eleven training sessions co-produced and co-facilitated by 123 peer mentors. Through four days packed with informative, collaborative, and interactive sessions, passionate community-builders across Nebraska were immersed in rejuvenating messages, energizing connections, and powerful information for their hometown development toolbelts.

The fourth day focused on creating authentic relationships in our communities and motivated participants to thoughtfully assess their hometowns’ strengths. Thursday’s first session, Community Collaboration: How and Why, showcased the essential role partnership plays in making dreams happen in Greater Nebraska. Presenters shared their personal experiences with community collaboration, offering insights, tales of success, and lessons learned. Each speaker’s experiences exemplified the need for genuine relationships between diverse community members – not just a single group.

Lindsey Jarecki of Boone County said input from every corner of the community served an essential role in efforts to create programs that serve children in the county.

“We had to take the time to build relationships, or we were just going to slap something together,” she said. “Or, even worse, walk away and just say, ‘this is too big, we can’t do this.’”

Walking away from relationships isn’t an option for true community-builders – even after achieving their goals. Nurturing those connections, instead, is the path toward greater success.

“The collaboration didn’t stop when the program started,” she said. “It continued, and it had to grow, otherwise the program was not going to be sustainable.”

The NCF network sustained its passion for unleashing abundance through the afternoon session, Loving Yourself and Loving Your Community. Facilitators led a series of exercises designed to foster attendees’ appreciation of their own superpowers, asking them to practice a little self-care by sharing their skills in breakout rooms. The exercises then expanded from micro to macro, asking participants to identify three assets in their communities they felt everyone should experience. Everyone left the session with an understanding that their communities’ already have what they need to reach their goals.

“We are the people we’ve been waiting for,” said NCF President Jeff Yost.

With the day’s sessions complete, the NCF network gathered their friends, family, and collaborators for the grand finale Annual Celebration Livestream. The hour-long event featured a bevy of inspirational speakers, including Yost, Hebron’s Rita Luongo, Grand Island’s Carlos Barcenas, and Taylor’s Megan Helberg.

With this year’s celebration complete, the NCF network is already looking toward 2021. After a tumultuous year like 2020, Nebraskans know how truly resilient their communities can be. With that knowledge taken to heart, the sky is the limit for Greater Nebraska. Our dreams are within reach, so long as we put in the work to make it happen.

Helberg issued wisdom to her NCF peers in her night-ending speech, “successful people are not more lucky, they are simply knocking on more doors.”

Thank you to everyone who helped make Dreams Welcome Week a success, and we cannot wait to see everyone in McCook for next year’s Annual Celebration!


Day Three

Dreams Welcome Week crossed the halfway point with momentum to spare, powering into its third day with abundant energy. The festivities began with Fostering Belonging in Your Hometown, a session focused on inviting community members to co-create the future of their hometowns. Richard Holmes from the UK’s Gloucester Community Building Collective offered a view of asset-based community development from across the pond, sharing a perspective that aligned with NCF’s mission of grassroots change. In the face of a pandemic, Holmes said, the importance of community connections in his corner of the world became readily apparent.

“Because we had built those relationships prior to when we needed them, we were able to respond quite quickly,” he said.

That inspiring training led into an explosive afternoon session, Philanthrophy “At the Speed of Trust.” Presenter Tammy Day of Norfolk encouraged attendees to consider everything they know about relationship building, scrap it all, and start from the beginning.

“Blow it all up,” Day said. “Throw it all out the window and figure out what you really care about.”

Day joined a knowledgeable group of FAC speakers who shared their relationship-building experiences with the participants, each emphasizing the necessity of transparent, community-minded communication that comprehensively examines the desires and dreams of hometown co-creators. NCF Board Member Pam Abbott reminded listeners that making everyone a stakeholder is the first step in building a road toward success.

“When it’s personal, it’s important,” Abbott said. “When it’s important, it gets done.”

Day three ended with a session imploring participants to not wait to start fundraising campaigns – HOMEgrown Challenge Grants – Why, How, NOW! reminded them they have the power and the assets to organize their own campaigns without a major foundation issuing a challenge grant to their affiliated fund. Testimonials from FAC share members inspired attendees to find their own “why” and “how,” then cheered them on as they plotted their own paths toward powering up their fund’s unrestricted endowment.

“Build trust, do good things with the gifts, and have fun along the way,” said Matt Sehnert of McCook Community Foundation Fund.

As the NCF network rolls through its fourth and final day of Dreams Welcome Week, we want to issue a final invitation to Thursday evening’s Annual Celebration livestream. Our lineup of speakers and engaging video testimonials is certain to provide your dreams with the fuel needed to burn brighter than ever. Head to www.nebcommfound.org to watch the event. It’s free and open to the public, so spread the word far and wide! It kicks off 6:30 PM/CT.

To quote Holmes, “this is the bit where you turn up your dream switch.”


Day Two

Dreamers from Nebraska and beyond once again gathered around computer screens for the second day of Dreams Welcome Week on Tuesday. The day’s opening session, Best Practices in FAC Leadership Succession, convened experienced fund advisory committee members from across Nebraska to discuss what worked and what didn’t during leadership transitions in their communities. Speaker Al Steuter stressed the importance of collaboration between membership from all generations.

“The future is regularly being redefined by the young folks in the community,” he said. “So, we need to turn those reins over to them.”

The session was unfortunately cut short after a security breach, but the training will be recorded and shared with the NCF network at a later date. We apologize for the inconvenience and any offense the incident may have caused.  NCF has implemented new security measures to prevent such an event from occurring again in the future. We want to thank everyone on the call for their understanding.

The second session of the day increased FAC members’ comfort level with planned giving. NCF’s planned giving and marketing staff led How to Launch a Planned Giving Program (It’s Easier than You Think!) and brought in peer mentors to discuss their successes in the realm of planned gifts. Each emphasized the need to lead by example and asserted the importance of making your own planned gift prior to asking others to make their own.

“It’s important for me to lead by example and not go out and ask others to make a gift that I wouldn’t make myself,” said Kiel VanderVeen, NCF board member and Nebraska City Community Foundation Fund member.

Facilitators in the evening’s Dreams Welcome! session encouraged participants to embrace their creative juices as they looked within to uncover their most fervent community and personal dreams. The interactive session assigned attendees to breakout rooms to discuss childhood dreams before returning to the larger training to participate in a writing exercise to build their own “six-word dreams.” The aspirational phrases flooded the chat box, creating a palpable torrent of positivity and community. Hometown Intern Dakota Cherney summed up the importance of inclusivity in his phrase, “multigenerational collaboration, the key to change.”

The good vibes will continue through Thursday evening, when NCF hosts a livestream annual celebration extravaganza, complete with inspirational video testimonies and spirited words from live speakers from across the NCF network. The event is free and open to the public, and we invite all Nebraskans to tune in for the party at www.nebcommfound.org. “See” you there!


Day One

Nebraska Community Foundation kicked off Dreams Welcome Week with gusto, convening more than 100 dreamers from Nebraska and beyond for the opening session of the virtual four-day community-building experience. The first session, Attracting Youth to Greater Nebraska, tasked attendees with determining what made their communities appealing to youth, as well as identifying areas of improvement. Dr. Josie Schafer, of UNO’s Center for Public Affairs Research, presented the results of the 2020 Nebraska Youth Survey, and Dee Hanson of Columbus Area Future Fund and Jenice Bergstrom of Axtell Community Fund shared their experiences with their own community surveys.

Volunteers from the NCF network received a refresher on affiliated fund roles in the second session, Roles your FAC Can Play. Coordinators led attendees through the top 10 things to know about their roles as fund advisory committee members, highlighting the transformative power of unrestricted endowments. Participants were invited to ask about that came to mind, with Development Coordinator Jana Jensen reminding them, “there are no silly questions today.” A panel of longtime fund advisory committee members from across the state then shared some of their evergreen tips for cultivating success in Nebraska hometowns.

The first day ended in celebratory fashion with a story of a young Nebraska woman finding her place in her hometown. Turn Up Your Dream Switch attendees were treated to a video of performances from “The Dream Switch,” a song cycle composed in Nebraska, by Nebraskans, and focused on helping communities consider different avenues to encourage young people to return home. Woven through the performances were interviews with real-life returners who told their own experiences of coming home to pursue their dreams. A live panel of FAC members then discussed the impact hosting a live performance of “The Dream Switch” had on their communities.

Dreams Welcome Week rolls through Thursday, Nov. 12, culminating in an evening livestream celebration. That event is free and open to the public, and we invite all Nebraskans to tune in for the party.

As NCF Chief Operations Officer K.C. Belitz put it, “Bring your most audacious dreams, and then put them to work.”

To view the rest of our generous sponsors, click here.

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