BY JEFF HEADLEY
Originally published by Keith County News
The Keith County Foundation Fund made a public announcement on Tuesday, the magnitude of which has never before been heard in this area.
Foundation officials announced that an anonymous gift of $7 million had been graciously and generously given to the foundation’s unrestricted endowment fund.
Let that sink in. Yes, $7 million – an unfathomable figure for nearly all who live in the community.
And, while the number is huge, what the KCFF Fund Advisory Committee can do for the community with one of the largest gifts ever presented to a Nebraska Community Foundation affiliated member is even bigger.
An anonymous donor just changed the community and its future forever.
“This is a game-changer,” KCFF Chairman Eric Duhachek said. “This donor has become a leader, showing Keith County and greater Nebraska that we are in the driver’s seat for change for our future.”
“Although the gift was unanticipated, the offering was cultivated through ideas, plans and relationships that were sown by this and previous KCFF Fund Advisory committees. A trust was placed in the foundation fund, and along with the donor’s love of place and home, an extraordinary gift came to be,” Duhachek said.
KCFF Board Vice Chairwoman Pam Abbott said, “The donor’s love of place and the recognition of the need to reinvest in the community was foremost in this donor’s decision. The designation to the unrestricted endowment demonstrates just how much this donor loved Keith County.
Unrestricted means unrestricted. The KCFF, with input from the community, gets to decide how this gift can best take Keith County into the future,” Abbott said.
While this magnanimous gesture from a single donor will open many new doors, FAC members urge the community to continue to give as it has in the past. It remains essential that the foundation continue to receive the broad-based support it has in previous years.
“We will continue to look forward and the only way to do that is by giving back,” Abbott said. “We don’t know what the county’s needs may be in 10 years and we still require others to support the foundation in order to be responsive to the future needs of our home.”
It is important for the community to understand that the donor requested that the gift be anonymous. The foundation and its fund advisory committee have an obligation to adhere to the donor’s request. Anonymous means anonymous.
As mentioned, the donor designated the $7 million gift to an unrestricted endowment fund, providing a permanent way for civic projects in Keith County to be funded. Investment earnings from the endowment are used each year to award grants to organizations for special community projects that might not otherwise be funded.
Each year, the endowment fund, which is invested through the Nebraska Community Foundation, increases in value through its investment earnings. Those earnings are used by the fund advisory committee, which, in turn, award grants to projects that go above and beyond what is normally funded through other revenue sources.
Endowment investment earnings are based on a 12-quarter rolling average, allowing the $7 million gift to reach full effect in fiscal year 2022-23.
The foundation granted $6,500 during its initial year in 2004 and gave away $37,500 during its highest grant-giving year in 2017.
During this fiscal year, which ended on June 30, Duhachek said he expects that the FAC will have nearly $100,000 available for distribution. And, once the gift reaches full effect in three fiscal years, the FAC will bestow about $400,000 annually.
Yes, $400,000 each year.
Again, think about that. Imagine the possibilities.
Nebraska Community Foundation President and CEO Jeff Yost confirmed that the $7 million gift was one of the largest ever received for an NCF-affiliated unrestricted endowment fund.
“This provides an opportunity for community members to dream big as it relates to lifelong education, economic opportunity, health and wellness, and other areas,” Yost said. “In our 21st century information-age economy, people can live and work anywhere they choose. A significant gift, such as this one, will amplify the terrific community building work already occurring and forever shape the future of Keith County. Affiliated fund leaders can use the payout from this endowment to create change that otherwise may not occur.”
Yost added, “We want all of our Nebraska hometowns to be communities of choice – hometowns young people are excited to live in and raise their families. An unrestricted endowment, especially one that will provide $400,000 per year, every year, forever, will help more people have more opportunities, a higher standard of living, and greater peace, happiness and fulfillment.”
Yost said Keith County, like all counties in Nebraska, will experience a significant transfer of wealth during the next 50 years.
According to conservative estimates, nearly $2 billion will be transferred from one generation to the next in Keith County during the next 50 years.
Rhetorically, Yost asked, “What if just 5 percent of that $2 billion conservative estimate is given back to the community? That would be $100 million that could be put back to work into the community where it was earned.”
Abbott said, “This is the type of gift and money that will allow the foundation to partner with local organizations to work toward a shared future vision for the community.”
KCFF board member Ken Snyder elaborated, saying, “Cooperation, collaboration and partnerships are the biggest words going forward.
The foundation may have the financial resources, but it will be community people who will make the changes. The foundation wants to participate in a shared vision that’s powerful enough to focus people on things that are worthy of their efforts.
“When we create a world of generous organizations, everyone thrives,”
Snyder said. “We want everyone in the community working together.”
Abbott said, “The KCFF is about community and we want to foster values and culture for the good of everyone. We don’t want to get in the way of innovation or creativity. We want to be adaptable, and we want to be that supporting arm to help in developmental efforts.”
Duhachek concluded, “We see ourselves as coordinators, trying to bring together groups for the benefit of the community. As the decimal place moves to the right, the foundation becomes more significant because of the help it can offer. We can invite people to the table and dream big because we have the ability to make that possible now.”
Undoubtedly, a donation of this size will force the foundation to conduct business a bit differently than in the past, but the ultimate goal of advancing Keith County to make it a destination of choice remains the same.
We want as many partnerships as possible,” Abbott said. “More importantly, it’s about the trust developed and nurtured through those partnerships. We want to be a state leader in developing those partnerships that work to help our community, our home.
“Change happens along the lines of relationships, but that change only happens at the speed of trust,” Abbott said. “Our focus remains on our stewardship, not only regarding this most generous gift but also on the future growth of this fund and the future of our community.”
While the gift brings cautious optimism, members of the local FAC are aware that they have an enormous responsibility for this gift and what it offers the community.
“People have to understand that we are going to be careful with this money,” Snyder said. “We want to invest in things that are ongoing and lasting. Things that are going to affect a lot of people and make a difference for the community.”
With this generous gift and wise stewardship from the KCFF, imagine the possibilities for Keith County.