By Jeff Yost
For two decades, Nebraska Community Foundation and its network of over 250 Nebraska hometowns have been talking about and illuminating the abundance that exists right here at home. Great people, great schools, great opportunities. Hardworking, creative, team-oriented people working together to build a better tomorrow. At NCF we have the pleasure of sharing good news and community success stories often.
Recently, one of these success stories reached a new level. On June 25, community leaders in Ogallala announced that their NCF affiliated fund, the Keith County Foundation Fund, is the recipient of a gift valued at over $7 million. This is big money anywhere in Nebraska, but especially in a county of 8,200 people.
More importantly, this gift was made to capitalize the Keith County Foundation Fund unrestricted endowment. Combining this gift with money already in place, the unrestricted endowment for Keith County will total nearly $10 million.
This means that volunteer leaders of the Keith County Foundation Fund will have at least $400,000 in endowment payout to use for grantmaking each year, every year, forever. Capacity at this high level will create positive change in Keith County that otherwise may not occur. In other words, this is “margin of excellence” money – opportunity capital to help move our hometowns from good to great. Unrestricted endowments are a tool to help us build and sustain communities of choice; communities that young people are proud to call home and excited to live in and raise their families.
Leaders of the Keith County Foundation Fund have worked hard to be ready to wisely leverage this abundance. They have crafted their vision, mission and values. They listen intently to their neighbors and act collaboratively. They are constantly learning about the opportunities and challenges that businesses, schools, services, and families encounter. Most importantly, they understand that strong, trusting relationships are the key to creating positive change in a community.
Communities that focus on building an unrestricted endowment today will be the communities most prepared for the future and most attractive to people who have many other options. We don’t know what our community needs or opportunities might look like in 10 or 20 years. We do know that we will need money, especially recurring, unrestricted money with no strings attached, to pursue new ventures or fill gaps that are unknown to us today. An unrestricted endowment empowers people with endless opportunities, a higher standard of living, and greater peace, happiness and fulfillment.
Across the Nebraska Community Foundation network, unrestricted community endowments now total over $40 million. Beyond Keith County, many other Nebraska hometowns, including Albion, Ainsworth, David City, Hebron, McCook, Nebraska City, Norfolk, Ord, Pender, Shickley and Spencer, now have $1 million or more in their individual community unrestricted endowments. A dozen more hometowns have at least $500,000.
Building a multi-million-dollar community endowment can happen in every Nebraska hometown. The abundance is here. In Keith County, we estimate that between 2010 and 2060 $2 billion will have transferred from one generation to the next. Keith County is not unique in this aspect.
Imagine if just five percent of that transfer of wealth were given back to the community where it was made and accumulated. Five percent of $2 billion is $100 million. The 50-year transfer of wealth in all of Nebraska will be an almost unimaginable $600 billion. What an opportunity! Clearly the dream of building a multi-million-dollar community endowment is achievable. Just look at what is happening in Keith County and in dozens of other amazing hometowns throughout Nebraska.