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First, it always connects me to my mom. From a very young age, she embedded in me a sense of connecting with others who were different than myself, and giving back when possible. If my memory serves me, and I was pretty darned young, we'd pile into her blue or brown Ford Pinto and head to grab our once-a-week asignment of meals on wheels and we would make our rounds. I'm sure I was cuter as a youngster than I am at 40, but I remember so fondly my connection with those in need. Most were so grateful to see us and as I've grown, I've learned more about food security and how important it is for us to take care of each other.
Then, there is my interest in many things political. For me, supporting nonprofits splits down the ideological line. You may or may not know that I'm writing this in part of support of National Nonprofit Day, in rembrance of the Tarriff Act of 1894, which, among other important tax law, established tax exemption for nonprofit corporations in the USA. Is it good, bad or otherwise? I'll leave that to someone smarter than myself. But I think it is important that we have carved out "nonprofits" as special in our tax code (that's where the term 501(c)(3) comes from). We need to care for each other. And it isn't at all a bad thing, and in fact it probably reduces dependence on government solutions, to have a thriving nonprofit sector. For that reason, I've always taken interest in, what to me, is a sister organization to SHARE Omaha - which is the Nonprofit Association of the Midlands. When I owned my own insurance office, I was a corporate member there, yes to consider obtaining business in the sector, but far more importantly, simply to support the nonprofit community. NAM is a great organization for advocacy, for helping facilitate best practice replication in nonprofit organizations, for helping professionals & new grads find jobs, etc.
Then there were all of the ways nonprofits helped shape me as a youth. I participated in Cub Scouts and Boys Scouts of America, now known as Scouting BSA because of the needed transition to be a single spot for families to be involved with their kiddos, and therefore including girls in their traditional programming. I have so many good memories of time with my dad, best friend and his dad in Scouting. From cake walks, to pinewood derby cars, to merit badges and finally culminating in my Eagle Scout award. It was simply so formative in my life, and I'm lucky to be able to continue it at Pack 866 for my two boys as both a dad and active volunteer.
Still in my formative years, college at Creighton University was full of connections to nonprofits. First, there was our service fraternity, Alpha Phi Omega, founded in part on the ideals of scouting. Each semester we had to complete 20 hours of service, and while some were specific to Creighton, many took us into nonprofits like the Boys and Girls Club of Omaha, Girls, Inc and others I remember. Next up, I got the opportunity to help coordinate the service learning for the Arts and Sciences college at Creighton. And then an internship at the Douglas County Victim's Assistance Unit. Finally, over spring breaks, there was the Creighton Spring Break Service Trips program coordinated by the Schlegel Center for Service and Justice that took us to many nonprofits across the country. Oh, and by the way, Creighton, like most/all institutions of higher education is a nonprofit themselves, which enhances their ability to positively impact the community.
Then as a professional I discovered how nonprofits enriched my understanding of the community I would call home. I was honored to participate in the Omaha Venture Group, which during my 15 year stint as a member and at times volunteer committee chair, gave around $600,000 to mainly start-up metro nonprofits. Fashioned in the vain of venture capital, each member contributes $400, which is then approximately 'matched' by 3 family foundations three times over and then distributed by the group (technically operating as a giving circle) as to the merits of grant applications of small and new nonprofits or new programs of existing nonprofits. Here I learned of the importance of the Omaha Community Foundation, as OVG was a program of that much larger organization, and I learned the importance of gifts, big & small, to nonprofits. I got the chance to learn about their landscape project. And similar to NAM, I view them as a sister organization to SHARE Omaha, with OCF's focus on research, impact, and facilitating financial investments, mainly large, but also small, into the nonprofits of the Omaha metro.
As a parent and professional, I have loved the outputs of many nonprofits. I believe over time I have used every major hospital in town, be that for the birth of a kiddo or a small 'mountain biking' injury in Bellevue - hah. I have loved being a 'Biz Tix' subscriber of the Omaha Community Playhouse, and I have enjoyed many a walk through Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo. I have made lifelong friends in the Kiwanis Club of Omaha and through that we have given about $40,000 per year to approximately 8 child-serving nonprofits in the metro.
So, why do I love nonprofits & feel that they individually & collectively are worth celebrating on this "National Nonprofit Day?" Well, because they have given me tremendous value in my life and I just want to do my little part to give back.