KC Belitz: The significance of Impact Planning

Originally published in the Columbus Telegram

For the second-consecutive column I have the opportunity to share the story of a local group of volunteers digging into the process of “Impact Planning” to make a difference in their community.

This time around, the Columbus Area Future Fund (CAFF) is beginning the process with Nebraska Community Foundation. Over the next month or so, the CAFF Fund Advisory Committee will be going through this three-session training that sets out a path to create positive change in their place. Leading up to this point, CAFF initially went through Action Planning and then updated their Action Plan last year. So it is clear that these are dedicated volunteers who are willing to invest their time in creating positive change in their hometown!

The Impact Planning process focuses CAFF’s attention on proactive grant-making, to be sure, but they will be engaging in discussion on other forms of community impact as well. In fact, the CAFF group went through a process to review and refine their theory of change last year so they have a significant head start in those areas.

One of the key points of Impact Planning is to encourage the local committees to really dig in to know their places deeply. This allows them to be more insightful and proactive in grantmaking to make the most impact in their place. Not to spoil any surprises for the committee, but I thought I’d share some of the data they’ll be considering in this first session to give you a flavor for the work.

For a number of years, people attraction or workforce development has been a key consideration for the Columbus area. One set of data points the committee will consider is related to that issue. Platte County is projected to lose significant working-age population in this decade and to lose population overall between now and 2050, but ranks 14th out of 93 counties for the presence of a child in the household and has seen an increase in school-age children since 2015. So the committee will dig into what that means and, more importantly, what CAFF can do to positively influence those trends.

They’ll also discuss the fact that the county’s poverty rate has ticked up over the past five years while at the same time median family income has increased significantly.

You can see how these data points lead to some engaged discussion! What we will see beyond the discussion is that they then lead to community impact efforts that create positive change!

I’m proud to have Butler County and now Columbus among the first five local affiliated funds to complete Impact Planning in the first year of its existence! This training is a natural evolution of the Nebraska Community Foundation network and it is great to have these local groups on the cutting edge of turning increased capacity into increased impact.

As I’ve said in the past, none of that happens without dedicated volunteers. Hats off to the CAFF committee members spending this time to improve the lives of their neighbors! To support their work or to get engaged with them, you can go to their website at www.columbusareafuturefund.org or search for the Columbus Area Future Fund page on the NCF website at: www.nebraskahometown.org.

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