Philanthropy and community spirit at work

Originally published by Columbus Telegram

By K.C. Belitz

Today, we’ll talk about two fairly different ways that philanthropy is going to be engaging in community work in our area and around Nebraska.

First up is a topic that seems timely given the weather over the weekend. Two funds at Nebraska Community Foundation that were set up for flood recovery have released a joint pre-application and are looking to put some of those funds to work in Nebraska counties to push forward recovery from spring or summer floods.

The Rebuild the Heartland Community Fund and Nebraska Flood Recovery Fund, both affiliated funds of Nebraska Community Foundation, have created a joint pre-application form for communities seeking funding for flood relief and recovery efforts. I’m excited to say that these funds have been able to agree on this pre-app, because it opens up the resources of both funds with just one piece of paper to be completed.

These funds both have to live with the typical restrictions for charitable dollars. That means, in simple terms, grants will be awarded to 501(c)(3) charitable organizations and local government authorities. For these grants, they’ll be targeted to those located in or serving a “flood-impacted community.” That will be defined as a county that has received a federal disaster designation and we have several in our region.

The two funds have agreed on some general target areas. Grants from either fund may support projects that set out to do the following:

  • Community redevelopment and rebuilding more resilient communities
  • Housing construction, rehabilitation, and related infrastructure
  • Support for small business and agriculture
  • Addressing and improving health and human services needs, including mental health

As you can see, there is a fairly wide variety of flood impacts that these funds can address. Any of the local NCF affiliates would welcome a contact from anyone who is interested in learning more and I’m happy to help as well.

The other connecting point between community work and philanthropy that I’ve run across in the past week is with Keep Nebraska Beautiful and its local affiliates. I had the chance to speak with the KNB network last week about how local philanthropy could connect with their work. I think this is just another great example of the gaps and/or opportunities in community work that can be addressed through local philanthropy. As KNB affiliates have seen public monies become more constrained, they are wisely looking for other sources for stable funding and at the local level, these community-based funds could step into that void.

It is precisely that flexibility that creates such value for a place with a local affiliated fund. Whether flood recovery or environmental education and recycling, funds are needed if the work is going to get done. When you consider just these two examples that have arisen in the past week, you can see the variety of opportunities that can now be addressed in Platte, Boone and Butler counties as a result of having these funds in our places.