Across the Omaha metro, young professionals are coming together to focus their efforts on improving our community, and in the process, learning about grassroots grantmaking through the Omaha Venture Group, a giving circle within the Omaha Community Foundation. As a giving circle, the group’s forty members pool their charitable dollars together and collectively engage in decision-making about where their money goes and who benefits.

Currently, the group focuses on giving small grants of up to $5,000 to small, grassroots organizations that fall within the Omaha Venture Group’s focus areas of serving youth, adults/seniors and the community at large.

Participating in OVG has given me the opportunity to get to know small and start-up local nonprofits making a difference in the Omaha community. As young professionals, most of us do not have the resources to make large grants to nonprofits, but together we can offer a grant to enable more significant impact and also offer our unique talents to fulfill a great need for a small or start-up nonprofit.

Each spring, Omaha Venture Group members work within an interest group that addresses one of the three focus areas of the giving circle.  Interest groups identify eligible nonprofits and conduct site visits to narrow the pool of candidates to nine organizations that will be invited to apply for a grant from the Omaha Venture Group.

The great thing about a giving circle like OVG is that you not only get to leverage your dollars to provide a more meaningful impact on organizations, but you are also able to use the collective wisdom and insight of the larger group to expand your own understanding of issues and solutions within the community.

Beyond the resources that each member contributes, the Omaha Community Foundation assists in securing matching funds from Omaha area foundations to leverage member’ donations and further increase the pool of funds available to grant to selected nonprofits. Current co-chair, Jeff Ash commented, “I am incredibly grateful to the foundations that have supported OVG, making it possible for us to be involved with so many different nonprofit groups.”

Because of OVG, I have a greater appreciation for the impact of collective giving and the impact it makes to the small organizations to which we donate. I love seeing the passion that some of the smaller organizations bring to the table.”

The full grantmaking membership comes together for a Vote Night to discuss all proposals and determine funding recommendations. A round of voting leads to the finalization of grant amounts, which are announced at the celebratory Grant Night where selected nonprofits are presented with their grant awards.

As a member who did not grow up in Omaha, OVG has shown me parts of the philanthropic community that I may not have discovered on my own, provided a forum for developing friendships with like-minded young professionals, and allowed me to develop a personal involvement in the community that is now my home.

In looking to the future, Hiley remarked, “For me, the most fulfilling part about OVG has been discovering nonprofits in their infancy and then seeing them grow to have a larger impact on the community.  Additionally, I think one of the biggest impacts OVG will have is that it is enlightening and empowering future leaders to continue the tradition of philanthropic excellence from which we all benefit.”

Visit the Omaha Venture Group page if you’d like to become a member.