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One of the real strengths of the Nebraska Community Foundation network is the ability to share inspiration among the 250 communities who are taking this journey together.

As you may recall, two weeks ago I shared how much our region had inspired our colleagues and friends who were visiting here for a couple days. Today, it is our turn to be inspired, this time by our friends out west.

The fund in Keith County is one of five peer communities, along with the Columbus Area Future Fund, in the current round of “Building Community Capacity” challenge grants administered by NCF. Last week, the Keith County fund announced an estate gift from an anonymous donor in the neighborhood of $7-million! Yes, that’s a nice neighborhood to be in.

Combining this gift and the existing endowment they’ve built over time, Keith County affiliated fund leaders will have at least $400,000 each year, forever, of endowment payout to make impact grants in their county. They will have the opportunity to help more people have more opportunities, a higher standard of living and greater quality of life in many ways in Keith County. This is truly a “margin of excellence” for these communities!

As it happened, the Columbus fund was with Keith County (as well as Stuart, Imperial and Howells funds) just two days after the big announcement. So our local fund leaders were among the first in the NCF network to congratulate Keith County but also to hear how this came about.

What they heard was that the current leaders of the Keith County fund really had no idea the gift was coming. While I felt to them like the gift just fell out of the sky, I would submit that nothing is further from the truth. In fact, I’m quite confident the gift was made by this donor because of relationships that had been built over many years, by a track record of trust and accomplishment in the Keith County Foundation Fund, and by thousands of volunteer hours spent by past and current committee members in Keith County.

It strikes me that we are today doing the same work all over Nebraska that Keith County leaders did 15 or 20 years ago … planting seeds, building a reputation, building trust…that led to this gift for them. I am confident the same will be true here in Columbus, Butler County, Boone County, and in other local funds as they keep doing great work as well!

But I know sometimes it’s hard to remember that…and it’s hard to be patient in waiting 10 years, 20 years, or more for those seeds to be harvested. So it was a valuable gift, indeed, for the Columbus fund leaders to hear the story first-hand from Keith County last week. It’s more tangible when we have real-life, first-hand evidence that this approach will lead to game-changing outcomes for our hometowns.

I’d invite you to get inspired as well. Become part of changing our future through the local funds in Columbus, Boone County, Butler County, and other local hometowns. Do something today that your kids will thank you for in 20 years. As the old saying goes, “The best time to plant a tree was 30 years ago but the second best time to plant a tree is right now.”

K.C. Belitz is the chief operating officer of the Nebraska Community Foundation.

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