Piecing together the people attraction puzzle

Few things are as satisfying as when puzzle pieces snap into place. Community-building is the same. The puzzle may never be fully complete, but each new piece unleashes more of Nebraska’s abundance. Nebraska Community Foundation’s mission is to help find those elusive pieces—such as housing, early childhood education, and workforce development—and assist local volunteers in fitting them together.

NCF hosted its first People Attraction Summit last fall in partnership with University of Nebraska Extension, the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce, and Peter Kiewit Foundation.

After consulting with mentors in a variety of specialties, teams from Nebraska communities pitched their most innovative people attraction ideas to a panel of judges. The pitches varied in scope but shared an ambition to entice new residents to Greater Nebraska. Teams were incentivized with funding available exclusively to those in attendance.

Students from Imperial presented (in English and Spanish) their creative ideas for making the community’s ever-diversifying population feel more welcome. Bertrand and Holt County’s big ideas focused on matching young entrepreneurs to local opportunities. McCook proposed an idea for recruiting and retaining healthcare professionals in the area.

“When the hospital calls a former medical student, they want the student to recall McCook with fondness and accept a job opportunity,” said Ronda Graff of McCook Community Foundation Fund. 

Of course, if we’re courting new people to Greater Nebraska communities, we need places for them to live. NCF has forged partnerships to help solve the housing conundrum facing nearly every community in the state. Nebraska Investment Finance Authority’s Executive Director Shannon Harner recently presented a webinar to the NCF network on the organization’s ambitious new strategic framework.

Affiliated funds in Keith County, Boone County, Bertrand, and Pender-Thurston have made grants toward housing efforts in their communities, and many others are considering doing the same.

Nebraska’s most perplexing challenges are unlikely to be solved by any one magic bullet. Philanthropy is increasingly being used as another avenue for experimentation and innovation because charitable dollars can be employed more quickly and offer flexibility not afforded to local government. 

No philanthropic vehicle offers more flexibility than an unrestricted endowment. Today, 85 community-based affiliated funds are building unrestricted endowments. These total nearly $58 million, five times what they were a decade ago. With these flexible assets and significant momentum, the NCF network is well positioned to help solve the people attraction puzzle.

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