Jeff Yost: Looking back and planning ahead

The namesake for January, the ancient Roman god Janus, had two faces.

To the Romans, Janus represented change, new beginnings, endings—even the concept of time itself. Of his two faces, one stared straight ahead while the other looked behind to the past. I find that fitting for the namesake of the first month on our calendar, a time in which we reflect on the past year and make goals for the next. After all, it helps to see where you came from when deciding where to go next.

When I look back on the last 12 months, I see so many major achievements. I think about early childhood education in Albion, a new community center in Laurel, a “Welcoming and Belonging Community Grant Challenge” in Columbus, local foods in Hebron schools, housing development in Ogallala and Eustis, opera house renovations in Friend, an inclusive playground in Sidney, STEM education in Norfolk, leadership development in Valley County, expanded learning opportunities in Syracuse, nursing scholarships in Burwell, heritage tourism development in Red Cloud, pediatric dental health care in Bassett and Scottsbluff, small business and entrepreneurship development in Holt County, and scholarships for Native American students throughout the state. As long as that list is, it’s only a fraction of what the Nebraska Community Foundation network achieved in 2022.

These accomplishments were made possible partly through the generosity of people who care deeply about Nebraska’s future. Shirley Kreutz Bennett’s estate gift, for example, helped dozens of small-town libraries achieve a margin of excellence over the last 13 years. Her donor-advised fund spent the remainder of her gift’s principal last year, marking over a decade of success and more than $700,000 invested in community libraries throughout the state.

Charitable gift planning allows people to provide for the future of their family and their community. Nebraska Community Foundation’s “5 to Thrive” campaign encourages Nebraskans to leave just 5% of their estate to local affiliated funds or charitable organizations benefiting their community.

Two-thirds of Americans do not have a will or living trust in place, according to a 2022 survey by and YouGov. Interestingly, the number of young adults with wills rose 50% since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, from 16% in 2020 to 24% in 2022. Many of our network’s young volunteers are part of that trend, and many more are planning to make designations for their communities in their estate plans.

The predominant reason many respondents gave for not having a will is that they haven’t gotten around to it yet. Estate planning can be intimidating for many reasons but making those preparations now can provide peace of mind that your family and community will be taken care of in the future. Creating a gift in a will is also one of the easiest ways to make a charitable gift, alongside a beneficiary designation on a financial account like a life insurance policy, retirement plan, mutual fund or bank account. Many in the NCF network have told us they were surprised with just how simple and convenient it was for them to make their planned gift.

The website has an abundance of resources on tax-wise charitable gift planning, including gift planning calculators, stories of donor impact and a free downloadable wills guide.

I have made a planned gift to benefit Nebraska Community Foundation, as well as donations to my hometown through the Red Cloud Community Foundation Fund. I ask you to consider doing the same for your hometown as you look back on 2022 and make plans for 2023 and beyond. For many of us, a planned gift is one of the biggest impacts we’ll ever make.

Jeff Yost is President and CEO of Nebraska Community Foundation.

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