We all do better when we all do better

On Thursday, November 8, hundreds of visitors from throughout Nebraska will be spending the day and evening in Norfolk. They will celebrate their collective success in efforts to inspire charitable giving and build stronger communities together with Nebraska Community Foundation (NCF).

They will come together for NCF’s Annual Celebration to teach and learn from one another.

More than 200 volunteers will attend a full day of training in sessions that address community-building issues ranging from early childhood development to workforce development, cultivating creative communities to nurturing strong leadership, and more.

Activities will take place at Divots and several locations throughout the city, including the Norfolk Arts Center, Norfolk Public Library, Daycos, Norfolk Area Chamber, and Northeast Community College.

In the evening, more people will arrive for a celebratory banquet and to hear stories of how Nebraska’s communities are putting philanthropy to work to attract returners, stayers, and newcomers to our hometowns. Some of those present will have been featured in past NCF stories as part of this “At Home in Greater Nebraska” series with Norfolk Daily News.

And the city of Norfolk itself will get a shout out through NCF’s annual report with a feature entitled “We All Do Better When We All Do Better.” Norfolk can be proud of the countless ways people of all ages and all walks of life are giving of themselves to create a thriving, welcoming, attractive community.

At just under 25,000 people, Norfolk is the largest city in Nebraska Community Foundation’s network of community-based funds. When Norfolk Area Community Foundation Fund (NACFF) was selected to participate in a challenge grant opportunity six years ago, volunteer leaders were confident they could raise the required $500,000 match to receive a $250,000 grant for the NACFF’s unrestricted endowment. But they were sensitive to the intended outcome of the challenge – to bring more people into the culture of charitable giving.

So, they took their time and invited the community into a continuing process of raising awareness. Groups ranging in age from middle school students to young professionals to senior citizens were brought together to express their hopes and dreams for the future. Today, philanthropy is playing a key role in achieving their vision.

Now, with an unrestricted endowment of more than $1 million, more than $40,000 in annual endowment earnings is available to help with countless charitable activities in this vibrant community. In 2018, grants supported youth development, recreation, diversity appreciation, and more. Additionally, NACFF holds several accounts that enable fundraising for large-scale projects like the skate park and Embrace Park, with its fully accessible playground.

Today there are many new faces on the NACFF advisory committee, and they represent more diverse backgrounds than those in the past. It is an important ingredient to achieving a vision crafted seven years ago: Norfolk is a growing, thriving community where giving back is a priority and an ongoing process for all citizens.

The culture of giving promoted by NACFF was central to the formation of the Philanthropy Council of Northeast Nebraska in 2010. The Council has grown to include nearly three dozen nonprofit organizations that work together to share resources, encourage best practices, and reduce duplication of efforts. In 2012 the Council began its annual tradition of honoring philanthropists and volunteers in the community and awarding grants to young people through its youth philanthropy contest. Since then, more than 143 youth directed charitable projects have brought joy, comfort and encouragement throughout Northeast Nebraska.

Like many Nebraska communities, Norfolk is focused on attracting and retaining a quality workforce. Efforts are paying off thanks to collaboration among industry, education, and economic development organizations, and fortunately for Norfolk, philanthropy.

An endowment was established through Nebraska Community several years ago to support people attraction and entrepreneurship in Norfolk and O’Neill. These two communities were admired by the late Rudy Elis, a bachelor farmer from Verdigre, whose bequest funded a multi-million-dollar endowment. Today, Mr. Elis’s charitable intentions are working in very practical ways. Two programs launched over the past three years receive significant support.

The Norfolk Now Workforce Initiative is a joint effort between the Chamber, Visitors Bureau, and Economic Development Council. The program is a multi-faceted approach for attracting new talent to the area and retaining the future workforce. It involves community marketing through social media and a dynamic website, norfolknow.org, a young professional’s group, and work-based learning opportunities.

Norfolk High School’s Career Academies offer 12 academies that develop student skills in specific career fields: agriculture, automotive, business, construction, culinary arts, drafting, early childhood, finance, health sciences, information technology, marketing, and metals. Each of these pathways is integral to Norfolk’s short- and long-term workforce needs.

The Rudolph Elis Fund continues to grow and reinvest. Coupled with the Norfolk Area Community Foundation Fund’s unrestricted endowment, the community has more than $4 million in funds permanently endowed through Nebraska Community Foundation. Importantly, 15 future estate gifts are in place to afford opportunities for everyone “to do better” decades into the future.

One Norfolk business is putting philanthropy to work in its own workplace. Daycos became a Nebraska Benefit Corporation and Certified B Corp in 2016 to better fulfill its purpose to “do good and be good.” This led the company to form the Daycos4Good donor-advised fund at Nebraska Community Foundation. The Daycos Community Investment Committee composed of Daycos employees made its first community grants in 2017 to programs that touch the lives of people of all ages. Additionally, Daycos employees provide countless hours of volunteer support to charitable causes throughout the year.

The examples of charitable impacts mentioned here offer only a glimpse of the culture of giving that is growing in Norfolk. Nebraska Community Foundation is excited and grateful for the opportunity to witness firsthand how, in a truly vibrant community, “We all do better when we all do better.”

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