Can a Generous Community Meet a Huge Need?

by Hillary Nather-Detisch

This past Tuesday we celebrated National Philanthropy Day, a day to celebrate the good that's happened, the change that's been created, the effects of philanthropy, and the generosity of others. At a luncheon today in Omaha, our local chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals will be honoring amazing philanthropists and volunteer fundraisers from throughout the state. It will be a reflective and appreciative celebration, one that will showcase how philanthropy is intertwined with our everyday activities, and I'm honored to participate.

However, in the midst of celebrating Community Foundation Week and philanthropy in general, I am struggling with a question: Will philanthropy be enough in my own community? In a time when federal taxation of charitable deductions is being questioned, all of us in the philanthropic sector are encouraged to take a step back and look at how we are effective, what we can do to be more effective, and ultimately, what change for the better we will be able to accomplish.

Omaha Community Foundation (OCF) is honored to have been recently recognized as one of the Philanthropy 400 in The Chronicle of Philanthropy for having the second biggest growth among foundations during the recession period. It reiterates the generosity of Omahans and their acknowledgment that the need for charity has never been greater.

There's no question that good work has been done thanks to philanthropy in our community. At the same time, Omaha was also thrust into the national spotlight when a CNN report listed it as the U.S. city with the highest percentage of African-American children living in poverty. It is a staggering statistic that is being addressed through the daily work of many nonprofit organizations. It has also spurred many community conversations and discussions.

But will philanthropy be enough? Will it answer the need? Will it take more? And who will be the leader(s) to bring this need to the forefront? Will there be an open dialogue for a private/public partnership and shared responsibility to lower this statistic and give all children in our community the same opportunities? And more importantly, will our generous philanthropists, from multimillionaires to average families, realize that we all can have an impact to create change with a charitable gift, regardless of size?

Hillary Nather-Detisch is director of donor accounts for Omaha Community Foundation, a member of the Council on Foundations.

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