By JON VANDERFORD
The Nebraska Community Foundation is celebrating its 25th anniversary. And by all accounts, money donated to local affiliated NCF funds is making a big difference in small towns.
Doug Friedli is a member of the Nebraska City Community Foundation Fund. It’s an affiliated fund of the Nebraska Community Foundation. It started 20 years ago, and he says it’s amazing to see how the fund has grown. “20 years later, oh my goodness, the impact that’s being made and the actual grants that are being made, it’s reality now,” Friedli said.
The Nebraska Community Foundation network is made up of 257 communities. Recently, members of those communities gathered in York for the NCF annual celebration, and to mark the organization’s 25th anniversary. NCF officials say the organization has surpassed $100 Million in endowed assets. That’s money that will stay in small communities forever. “We are putting together a tool, that taps into a hidden resource in the community of wealth,” Friedli said. “Some people are very guarded with their wealth, but with the community foundation, we can pull that wealth up to the surface.”
And that wealth is being put to good use. Just this year, the Keith County Foundation Fund received a more than $7 Million anonymous gift. The community has already made improvements with money in their current fund. “We were able to help out the splash pad, we just made a 50-thousand dollar donation for that,” Keith County Community Foundation Fund member Lorena Beckius said. “We just made a donation to the library. The library is going to be ready in the spring of 2020. That’s a $2.5 Million project that’s almost done.” But the new $7 Million donation this year will create a $9 Million endowment, and in about 3 years, it will allow a payout of $400,000 per year. “So the sky is the limit,” Beckius said. “It’s going to change everything on what we can do for the future of Ogallala, and we are very excited. We are looking for any non-profit organizations, anyone in the community who wants to make a difference, to come and let us know what their vision is.”
As affiliated funds of the Nebraska Community Foundation celebrate the organization’s 25th anniversary, it’s giving those funds and those communities a chance to look ahead to the next 25 years, to see what those years might look like. Members of the McCook Community Foundation Fund say it’s not totally clear what the future holds, but their endowment funding offers them a chance to think outside the box, and try something new. Community fund members in McCook hope to continue supporting the arts and culture of the area. They also plan to keep learning and growing as part of the Nebraska Community Foundation network. “With all of these communities working together, we steal ideas from each other,” McCook Community Foundation Fund member Rhonda Graff said. “We’ll look at other communities and say ‘that’s a great idea’. So to be part of this network is just a tremendous opportunity across the state to share ideas and resources.”
Doug Friedli says local unrestricted endowment funds are helping small communities succeed. “We have more young people moving back into rural Nebraska than ever before. Right now with broadband internet and technology, you can live anywhere in the state of Nebraska and work for companies all around the country and the world,” Friedli said.
The hope is that people will continue making gifts to local endowment funds in their communities, to support the betterment of their hometowns for the next 25 years and beyond.