Letter to the Editor

Celebrating community building for 25 years

Wednesday, November 13, 2019
Jeff Yost | President, CEO, Nebraska Community Foundation

This year, Nebraska Community Foundation celebrates 25 years of community-building from the ground up. I have had the honor of helping to lead this remarkable organization for more than 20 of those years. Much has changed during that time, and the pace of change quickens each year. But the core principle guiding our work remains the same: Communities can only be built by the people who live and work there.

Our view of Greater Nebraska is framed through the lens of abundance; not scarcity. We are firm in our belief that everything we need is right where we are, and we live amongst the most generous people in America.

There is a growing sense of optimism in Greater Nebraska. It is indicated in the most recent rural poll, and frankly, as I travel across the state, I can see it and I can feel it. Volunteer leaders in more than 250 communities we work with tell me that they appreciate the value the NCF network brings them. The network provides these leaders the opportunity to share, learn and experience community-building with one another. They know one another, they trust one another and they’re willing to go further and dream bigger because they know they’re not alone.

The success being experienced by communities in the NCF network is inspiring. Here are a few:

In Red Cloud, a combination of early childhood development and an economic development strategy focused on heritage tourism is paying great dividends, including new economic prosperity, new families moving to town and a sense of hope that is helping community leaders dream bigger. Having high-quality early childhood development was a significant factor in transitioning the only grocery store to a young couple with three children.

In Ord and Valley County an entrepreneurial ecosystem has been nurtured for the past 20 years. Community leaders are fostering youth businesses, leadership development and dozens of entrepreneurs are building and growing successful businesses, ranging from meat processing to sporting goods to a high-end yoga and wellness studio. Valley County now benefits from over $6 million of local endowments and another $4 million is committed through estate gifts.

Endowments in the NCF network are growing rapidly and now exceed $100 million. Diller now has a community endowment exceeding $800,000. Shickley has $2.1 million endowed. Imperial $1.4 million. Burwell $1.1 million. Brown County, Pender and Boone County each have $1.7 million. Friend $2.7 million. The list goes on.

This year, the Keith County Foundation Fund received a $7 million gift to further capitalize its unrestricted endowment. Now, with $9 million endowed, the Fund will soon be able to provide over $400,000 in payout for community grants each year, every year forever, to support local projects and programs to improve the quality of life and economic opportunity for its 8,000 residents.

Wise deployment of these new philanthropic resources is helping to fuel a growing number of young families moving to Greater Nebraska. In 53 counties the number of people in their 30s and 40s is on the rise and smart communities are investing in ways to attract and keep them.

Each day I wake up knowing that I will be working with people who believe in the future of their hometown. People who feel that giving back is an honor and asking others to do the same is an invitation.

Nebraska is a place of abundance. Nebraskans are amazing. We are the people we’ve been looking for. Please join us as we build the hometowns of our dreams.

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