I thought it would be a good time to provide you an update today on the activities of the Columbus Area Future Fund.

First, I’m sure it’s fair to say that many people don’t even know what CAFF does. The Future Fund is the local affiliate of the Nebraska Community Foundation so they are, in effect, our local community foundation for the Columbus region. In general terms, that means they seek charitable dollars to do good work locally. More specifically, the Future Fund is … as the name implies … focused on the future of the Columbus region. They invest in people and projects in four basic pillars: youth, entrepreneurship, philanthropy and leadership.

What makes the Future Fund unique among the group of fantastic local charities is one word: flexibility. This group has the flexibility to invest in any charitable purpose in the Columbus region, not tied to one organization or cause. So as the world changes (and it will), the Future Fund will be here to invest in Columbus in ways we can’t even imagine today.

And because they are building an unrestricted endowment, those funds will be here every year, forever, to meet those unimagined future needs. What a tremendous avenue to give back to our community and its future.

While that flexibility is a strength for CAFF, it’s also a challenge when it comes to describing what they do. So, here are some examples of how CAFF has, and will, put those dollars to work. They have invested in STEM education in all three local high schools, in community amenities like the ice-skating pond and all-inclusive playground, in entrepreneurship through the Micro-Business Development Program at Centro Hispano.

Recently, CAFF got involved in public safety as the group was part of the effort to raise private money to support the K-9 program of the Columbus Police Department. As you can see, it’s quite a variety!

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CAFF also helps build a culture of philanthropy in our region through coordinating the Columbus Area Philanthropy Council, bringing together their charitable partners for learning and support. In a wider sense, CAFF also connects the Columbus region to the other charitable resources. For example, their association with NCF allowed them to access significant funds in a Sherwood Foundation challenge grant and relationships with other funders that have brought outside resources to bear in the Columbus region.

Speaking of that Sherwood Foundation Challenge Grant, the campaign continues to fully match that grant by the end of 2020. CAFF has made great progress but still has money to raise. So, if you would like to support the kind of projects outlined above, here’s an opportunity to multiply your dollars! Every $100 you give becomes $150 with the match and that’s quite a return on investment! You can reach out CAFF Coordinator Eve Ortmeier at the Chamber office or contact them through the Nebraska Community Foundation website to ask questions and make a gift that impacts our hometown forever.

As with all NCF affiliated funds, the Future Fund makes all their decisions locally. The committee is chaired by Rick Chochon, who leads a 13-member group that meets every month to spend time improving our collective future. They are busy people who give their time, energy, and dollars to make this a better place for our children’s children.

As Gallup CEO Jim Clifton said recently, “You’ll save Nebraska one city at a time. You have to find a group of leaders in each place who’d rather die than see their city fail.” In this region, the Columbus Area Future Fund is precisely that!

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

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