The race for $500,000 continues

September 19, 2018

The Columbus Area Future Fund recently initiated the Public Phase of its “Toward a Bold Future” Campaign as it continues working toward its goal of raising $500,000.

“It will really push to influence the public and spread our message in a way that we haven’t been able to do,” said Eve Ortmeier, coordinator at Columbus Area Future Fund, which was established in 2007 as the Columbus Area Community Foundation Fund before making a name change recently.

The organization, through an endowment, works with local entities to ensure the viability and service to area communities, as well as building a substantial unrestricted fund for future projects, according to its official website. It is an affiliation of the Nebraska Community Foundation, an organization driven to growing communities throughout the state.

Columbus Area Future Fund is one of five affiliated funds selected for a $250,000 challenge through the Building Community Capacity in Rural Nebraska initiative by the Sherwood Foundation, which promotes equity through social justice initiatives to enhance Nebraska quality of life. The foundation will match 50 percent, with a maximum limit of $250,000, of the total funds raised by the organization by Dec. 31, 2020.

The campaign began in January and the organization already raised $311,400 from community leaders and local business owners during its first phase, which is called the Quiet Phase.

“Now, it’s the Public Phase where we are letting the whole community know,” said Rick Chochon, chairman of the organization’s Fund Advisory Committee.

Chochon said with how much government funding fluctuates each year, the whole idea of the endowment is to ensure community needs happening over the next 10 years can still be met.

“With an endowment fund, you’re building a fund for dollars and challenges that are yet to come,” he said.

Proceeds raised will go toward providing grants to local entities with projects fitting the organization’s four pillars of building leadership, expanding community philanthropy, energizing entrepreneurship and engaging youth.

Chochon said these projects will have to benefit community members to qualify.

“What grants that we give out have to be for the betterment and the benefit of Columbus so we are not tied to a specific cause,” he said.

In the past, Chochon said the organization provided funding to the Columbus Public Schools Foundation to build an inclusive community playground at Lost Creek Elementary School, as well as the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) and STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics) programs at area high schools.

Moving forward, Chochon said he feels optimistic about reaching the $500,000 goal because of how well the campaign started. He said the Public Phase is also a good way to increase awareness of the organization and its mission.

“The second phase of the campaign is also going to be an educational phase where we need to get the name of the foundation out in front of the public. It’s a common name, so the community knows it has a foundation that’s in place for future needs of our community,” he said.

Those wishing to donate are encouraged to contact Ortmeier at director@columbusareafuturefund.org or 402-606-6783.

Natasya Ong is a reporter for The Columbus Telegram. Reach her via email at natasya.ong@lee.net.

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