Technology, donor expectations affect charitable giving in Midlands

A booming economy has contributions to many local nonprofits on the rise while technology and rising donor expectations have these organizations being more deliberate and more results-oriented than ever before.

“Tangible results and stories are both part of the situation,” said Greg Vassios, senior vice president, corporate and donor relations with United Way of the Midlands. “Most donors care passionately about where their dollars go and also the impact that those dollars are making.

“They want to know that they can donate through a trusted partner. One of the things that we’re incredibly proud of at United Way of the Midlands is we’ve got two rankings across all United Ways in the U.S. We ranked 10th in the country out of 1,200 [United Way organizations] for campaign performance. Even more impressive, we’re 17th for financial operational efficiencies, which is how effectively we manage finances around our organization.”

Sara Boyd, president and CEO of Omaha Community Foundation, said companies are getting more creative in the manner in which they give. Increasingly, this means engaging employees.

“As technology expands and consumers are increasingly savvy in wanting to patronize socially responsible businesses, companies are looking to be more creative in how they execute a corporate giving strategy,” she said. “Some recent trends we’ve seen in corporate giving include the use of Corporate Executive Donor Advised Funds to recognize employee milestones or honoring service upon retirement.

“Many companies have established these charitable funds with corporate dollars at the Omaha Community Foundation. Other trends we’ve seen locally include moving more employee giving opportunities online and establishing Employee Assistance Funds. This May, we worked with 10 companies who matched employee giving in one way or another during Omaha Gives. We’ve had local companies use OmahaGives.org year-round to be creative in their employee engagement opportunities.”

Seeing these tools in action are helping point the way toward future enhancements, Boyd said.

“Moving forward, investments in technology to improve our donor experience are a strategic priority for the foundation,” she said. “We’re excited to continue to enrich the online user experience for our fund holders and strengthen the connection between donors and issues they care about.”

Equally important to the method of contributions is the way those dollars are spent. This not only helps meet priorities but is used a measuring stick of a nonprofits effectiveness and capabilities.

“Communicating clearly with our constituencies around what are our funding practices and policies, what are we interested in, how are we making an impact and what are the outcomes that are benefiting the community are essential,” said Pete Tulipana, president and CEO of the lowa West Foundation. “As a foundation, one of the ways we are most successful is by gathering good information from the community about whats important to the community. Being transparent about that and creating partnerships to make those significant amenities or programs happen as a result of those partnerships is key.”

Leveraging this information, the lowa West Foundation identifies major projects then forms partnerships to help fund them, froms a center for the arts to an athletic complex. And there’s more Continued on next page.

Donor expectations Continued from preceding page. to come.

“We have a program called the Pottawattamie County Promise where any Pell eligible student in Pottawattamie County can attend a two-year program, free of charge, at lowa Western Community College,” he said. “We’re also looking at our recreational facilities available for southwest lowa. Right now, young people from southwest lowa pretty much have to travel to west Omaha in order to play soccer year around, so we’re examining the feasibility of creating some kind of an indoor soccer complex that could enhance that access for our kids.”