Red Cloud fosters community of giving

Like many young Nebraskans, National Willa Cather Center Executive Director Ashley Olson returned to her hometown to build a life in the community that raised her. She’s grateful to have found her place in Red Cloud, where she also serves on the Red Cloud Community Fund’s advisory committee.

“I feel like a lot of young people who grow up in rural Nebraska are eager to get out and make their way in the world,” she said. “It didn’t take me long to realize I wanted to come back some day.”

Since her return, Olson has joined her neighbors in making Red Cloud shine brighter than ever. The community cultivates a collaborative spirit, exemplified by partnerships between the Willa Cather Foundation, city officials, RCCF, and the Chamber of Commerce. One such effort resulted in the hiring of a tourism director who has furthered Red Cloud’s position as a cultural touchstone for Nebraska. Another group effort led to the 2018 opening of The Valley Child Development Center, a state-of-the-art early childhood education center.

Those successes exemplify the all-for-one, one-for-all spirit in Red Cloud. Everyone is in it together, and that’s an attitude RCCF encourages.

“One of the main things we’ve tried to do on the FAC is foster a culture of philanthropy in the community,” Olson said.

She had recently joined Red Cloud’s National Willa Cather Center staff when a presentation by Nebraska Community Foundation President and fellow Red Cloud native Jeff Yost resonated with her.

Yost spoke to the massive opportunity illustrated in NCF’s Transfer of Wealth study, which documented potentially $600 billion being transferred from one generation to the next through the coming 40 years in Nebraska. If just 5% of that money were endowed by community funds, it would result in $30 million for Greater Nebraskans to use to better their hometowns. In Webster County alone, $1 billion could change hands—5% of which would be $51 million.

“That’s when I started to wrap my head around and recognize the full potential of philanthropy,” Olson said.

Olson wanted to lead by example. Inspired by RCCF goals to invite members of the community to make planned gifts, she decided to make a gift of her own to benefit the fund.

“You can’t ask others to do something that you haven’t done yourself,” she said. “I felt it was important that I step up. It’s probably one of the easiest gifts you can make.”

Beyond inspiring others to give, Olson wanted to give something back to the place that raised her. By making a beneficiary designation, the young parent found a way to leave something for the community while preparing for her daughter’s future. It was a simple, quick process that will have lasting impact.

“I felt it was very important to give a percentage of funds to the causes I really care about,” she said. “I’ve been afforded a wonderful life here in Red Cloud, as a kid and working here professionally. For me this is about giving back a piece of what the community has given me.”

Reach out to your professional advisor to learn how you can give and consult Nebraska Community Foundation’s Planned Giving resources for more information. You can also contact NCF’s Office of Gift Planning by calling 402-323-7330 or sending an email to

More from Donor Impact

All News

Elgin pools local resources and community support

Former Decatur resident leaves $1.2 million gift to her hometown

‘Organized Chaos:’ Celebrating Corky’s spark and passion in Pender