Serving as a connector and philanthropic partner to the Lincoln community since 1955, Lincoln Community Foundation continues to facilitate collaboration and philanthropy efforts across the city while focusing on the unique challenges and opportunities that exist for the future success of Lincoln.
A Faithful Steward
As the oldest community foundation in Nebraska, Lincoln Community Foundation defines its areas of work in three categories — the first being a philanthropic partner that works with donors to manage philanthropic interest by offering various tools such as donor advised funds and assistance with establishing endowment funds.
In its second role as a community investor, Lincoln Community Foundation awards discretionary community grants, as well as scholarship programs on behalf of donors. Currently, Lincoln Community Foundation supports 90 scholarship funds across the state of Nebraska. In 2021, the organization had a record-breaking year, generating $46 million in contributions. Alec Gorynski, CEO of Lincoln Community Foundation, said this amount represents funds that will be, or have been, reinvested in the Lincoln community.
“On our grant making side and charitable program expenses into the community, we granted more than $23 million last year,” Gorynski said. “Some of that money represents our discretionary dollars, whether that is open door grants, which meet existing needs or address challenges and opportunities of nonprofit organizations, or it might be areas of affordable housing and early childhood education.”
Finally, in its third role, Lincoln Community Foundation focuses on community leadership, which involves identifying and organizing efforts around the community’s unique needs.
“Our responsibility goes well beyond just holding and deploying philanthropic resources in partnership with charitably-minded individuals in our community,” Gorynski said.
“We also have the responsibility of truly knowing our community.”
One way Lincoln Community Foundation better understands the community and its citizens is through Lincoln Vital Signs — a massive data project, in partnership with the University of Nebraska’s public policy center, that was launched in 2014. Funded with discretionary resources, Lincoln Vital Signs is published every two years, providing a comprehensive look at the socioeconomic conditions of Lincoln. The 2022 iteration will be published in a few months.
To utilize the data, Lincoln Community Foundation also initiated Prosper Lincoln, a collective impact model for community change and collaboration that brings together leaders from across the community to set priorities and establish a shared agenda for positive change to address the findings of Lincoln Vital Signs.
“The goal is economic and social prosperity for our community,” Gorynski said. “With our data, we were able to identify early childhood education, affordable housing, strong neighborhoods, innovative workforce and civic investments as top areas that we need to focus on.”
In order to further support a culture of philanthropy, Lincoln Community Foundation established Give to Lincoln Day in 2012. The donor-driven community philanthropy event held on May 26 this year connects charitable contributions from donors to various local nonprofits in the Lincoln community. This year, there are over 480 local nonprofits participating. In the years since its creation, Give to Lincoln Day has raised more than $41 million for local organizations in Lincoln.
“We help individuals be philanthropic,” Gorynski said. “Philanthropy can often be associated with a particular organization or cause, but sometimes individuals’ interest is much broader than that.
We recognize that they care about this community that we live and work in and they want to support the future. We also understand that the needs of today are likely going to be different than the needs of tomorrow, which is another reason why giving back to the community is vital.”
Philanthropy is for Everybody
For a community to be successful and sustainable, there are a handful of necessities. For starters, Gorynski said access to resources that will deliver healthy outcomes, safe and secure housing, and access to employment or opportunities to generate income are critical.
“Regardless of where you live, it is yours to own and the future of that community is in your hands,” Gorynski said. “We cannot expect that others are necessarily going to take care of the future of our community for us. Whether it’s workforce, housing or the education of our children, all of those areas are necessary for the long term economic and social success of the community.
A community also needs to be interesting, culturally vibrant and environmentally sustainable. For a prosperous community, we as individuals need to take on that responsibly. Organizations and businesses exist for this reason and all require charitable resources to operate and be successful.
Charity exists because we can’t look to government institutions to solve our problems, instead we have to look inward and invest in the future of our community.”