Fostering an Equitable Community and Internal Culture
by Donna Kush,President and CEO
At the Omaha Community Foundation, we’ve made it our mission to inspire philanthropy to create a thriving community for all. We do this by cultivating generosity, strengthening nonprofits, and engaging the community around priority issues. Our team has the ability to identify and understand these issues due to the knowledge, insight and elevation of lived experiences that come from our resident-led grant programs.
For more than 10 years, these programs have addressed emerging and ongoing needs within the Omaha-Council Bluffs metro ranging from neighborhood development, increased BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) representation in positions of power, and access for LGTBQIA+ community members. This strategic partnership gives our team thoughtful understanding on how to best invest equitably in our community.
Since their inception, the African American Unity Fund, Futuro Latino Fund, Equality Fund for LGBTQIA+, Omaha Neighborhood Grants, and Refugee Community Grant Programs have together awarded approximately $3.9 million to local nonprofits.
Within our community and nationwide, we’ve seen a call for racial justice, more equitable public policy, and a diverse set of voices at the table and in positions of leadership. Our resident-led grant programs address these gaps while bringing local voices and resident involvement into our philanthropic work.
However, these programs aren’t where our equity journey ends:
COVID-19 Response Fund - Our COVID-19 Impact Report, published earlier this fall, shows us that 53 percent of COVID-19 cases in Douglas County are people of color, but people of color make up only 29 percent of the population of the county. Therefore, we understand that minorities are at greater risk for contracting COVID-19, due in part to underlying economic systems and structural racism that have led to worse health outcomes for people of color. The COVID-19 Response Fund we launched in March strategically invests in organizations that have deep roots in the community and strong experience working with residents without health insurance and/or access to sick days, people with limited English language proficiency, low-wage workers, and communities of color, among others.
Fund for Omaha - The Fund for Omaha has recently restructured to amplify and care for the voices of BIPOC community members. Historically, the Fund has made strategic investments to support arts and culture, neighborhoods, economic opportunity, health, transportation and vibrant communities. While there has always been a focus on nonprofits working to ensure equitable access for residents, in response to recent events in our country and world, the Foundation decided to shift the Fund to explicitly include intersections of racial equity in our funding criteria.
Internal Culture - In June 2018, the Omaha Community Foundation team, guided by the Center for Equity and Inclusion, began a journey to deepen our understanding of racial equity and our role in systems that may harm BIPOC community members. After more than a year of learning, we established an internal Equity Committee to continue the work of CEI. To date, the Equity Team has hosted various in-person and virtual learning opportunities for staff and developed an Equity Filter to ensure all decisions made at the Foundation consider the impact on community members of color.
While each piece of this work is ongoing and evolving as we continue to learn and respond to community needs, we know that understanding and promoting equity will drive our work for the months and years to come.
We invite anyone to join us in learning more about the work of the Omaha Community Foundation, by visiting omahafoundation.org or calling 402-342-3458.