The Omaha Community Foundation (OCF) was founded in 1982 to “help good grow” and has worked with more than 2,000 fundholders since then to facilitate their philanthropic giving. Over time, donors have granted $1.8 billion to nonprofits and supported more than 3,000 local organizations.
From 2013 to 2020, OCF also presented Omaha Gives, an annual one-day giving holiday that raised more than $58 million for area nonprofits.
*EDITORS NOTE: See Kali Baker tribute page 32
SHARE Omaha, a community engagement conduit launched in 2018, serves an eight-county region in Nebraska and southwestern Iowa, connecting community members to nonprofits so they can donate funds or material goods or volunteer for a nonprofit’s specific needs, or participate in fundraising events.
The two philanthropy-focused organizations complement each other perfectly and their teams have always had a great working relationship and professional respect for each other. It makes sense that the Omaha Community Foundation and SHARE Omaha have formed a partnership that will combine the year-round power and versatility of shareomaha.org with the far-reaching accessibility of Omaha Gives, allowing each group to continue to work together, yet focus on what they do best.
“For SHARE Omaha, it’s those 365 days of engaging the community with nonprofits. For us, it’s going to allow us to focus more on our strategic initiative work that we have started to do in different areas, our grantmaking, our capacity-building, and even some of the most recent things we’ve been doing with our public partners,” Omaha Community Foundation CEO and President Donna Kush said. “The timing of it worked out well. As SHARE Omaha has grown since its inception not that long ago, it’s really made a presence in the community that allows us to step aside and say, ‘this is a great opportunity for the community and nonprofits because we’re going to move to one platform now and maybe not have some confusion about where to go.’”
“The Omaha Community Foundation’s community initiatives have a daily expression on SHARE Omaha: People being able to react in real time to a crisis, people being able to react in real time to a volunteer need or an issue bubbling up in the community; there’s something you can immediately do with SHARE Omaha,” SHARE Omaha Executive Director Marjorie Maas said. “The Community Foundation has a finger on the pulse of issues and they are working at the macro level of what can be done to solve those communitywide issues. This partnership allows us to have that daily expression but also that pulse, and allows us to be able to focus on each other’s best strength.”
One big change is the end of Omaha Gives, which by all counts had an incredible run. Leaders from both nonprofits said they are confident that the giving will continue to grow on the enhanced platform, with SHARE Omaha’s focus on 365-day giving as well as giving and volunteering events including Giving Tuesday on December 1 this year and Do Good Week, which is concurrent with National Volunteer Week, April 18-24, in 2021.
“For #GivingTuesday402 (Omaha metro area) and #GivingTuesday712 (southwestern Iowa) campaigns we have great partners in Core Bank on the Omaha side and TS Bank on the Iowa side, and we are working very closely with the business community,” Maas said. Calling Giving Tuesday a “fourth-quarter race to the finish line,” she added that SHARE Omaha provides marketing messaging and other support tools for any nonprofit that wants to be part of Giving Tuesday, even if they aren’t part of SHARE Omaha. “We want to make sure that nonprofits feel like they are supported, heard and excited by this campaign…we want to make sure everybody feels invited to celebrate generosity in all its forms.”
Do Good Week will capitalize on the legacy of generosity of Omaha Gives, Maas said, along with the creativity inspired during the giving holiday’s eight years.
“Omaha loves a spring giving season and we want that tradition to continue,” she said. “And we think that creativity is going to be seen in these other campaigns that SHARE Omaha is going to power for the community.”
Although some nonprofits and community members expressed initial disappointment that Omaha Gives has ended, Kush said, people have been overwhelmingly supportive.
“We prepared ourselves to have more negative responses than what we ended up hearing. We were pleasantly surprised by the reaction from people. I think they understood it, they ‘got it’ that strategically this makes a lot of sense for everybody involved,” she said. “Change is not easy, and we understand that. Even those people who were disappointed, when they understood what was happening and they’ve seen what Marjorie and her team have done for the community, they understood it. It actually became an opportunity to tell them about the partnership and win them over even more.”
More options to engage
SHARE Omaha connects “everyday philanthropists” to local causes with a website platform that highlights opportunities to support local organizations in multiple ways. For example, during the floods of 2019 and during the pandemic that began in 2020, SHARE Omaha engaged new volunteers (over3,000 in 2020 alone) and allowed donors to provide needed material goods during critical times. SHARE Omaha operates with the belief that every member of the Omaha/Council Bluffs metro has a gift to offer the community, each donor and volunteer is valued, and all are invited to give when, where and how they want to give, Maas said.
“It’s not so much what changes for the organization, it’s what changes for the people who want to support our community. It’s a shift. So rather than one large celebration on one day that’s cash-focused,
SHARE Omaha is able to leverage cash donations 365 days a year as well as any other way someone wants to impact a nonprofit in a way that they asked for,” Maas said.
“We get to see our nonprofits flex the muscle of our cash donation ability and we think that’s actually going to be able to give people more options to engage.”
A single giving platform also simplifies the response mechanism for participating nonprofits and community members, she added.
“We think that by concentrating that effort on one unified platform at shareomaha.org, that there’s less maintenance by nonprofits. They don’t have to maintain two or more profiles, and the public knows exactly where to go when there’s a flood or a fire or a human services crisis,” she explained.
Initiatives, partnerships and grants
OCF will concentrate its efforts on larger, issue-driven initiatives like The Landscape, which incorporates publicly-available data, policy review, and insight gathered from direct engagement; community partnerships such as working with Douglas County to distribute CARES Act funding and stimulus grants; and grant programs like the COVID-19 Response Fund, resident-led Community Interest Fund grants, and others.
“For the Omaha Community Foundation, it doesn’t so much change what we’re doing but allows us to have more resources focused now where we strategically want to put more resources, which is on our initiative work,” Kush said.
The partnership also allows for future opportunities for the philanthropic allies.
“I think that’s what Marjorie and I are most excited about,” Kush said. “The third element of this is there is so much opportunity for the Omaha Community Foundation and SHARE Omaha to work together moving forward.”
"Strategically this makes a lot of sense for everybody involved."
~ Donna Kush, President and CEO, Omaha Community Foundation
"We want to make sure everybody feels invited to celebrate generosity in all its forms."
~ Marjorie Maas, Executive Director, SHARE Omaha