Every successful community relies on volunteer leadership and Lincoln is no exception. In Lincoln an uncounted number of men and women regularly step up to take on leadership roles as board members, volunteers, and financial supporters. Most are senior executives with decades of experience with charities and non-profits.
In a move to secure leaders for the future, United Way culminated a year of planning to engage younger individuals who care about what happens here with the launch of Emerging Leaders — a group dedicated to educating, engaging, and empowering the next generation of United Way supporters and leaders. And the best part? They aspire to make a positive difference right here in our community.
Lona Thompson, Resource Development Manager for United Way, who has been involved in the planning from the beginning, said the program was modeled after the successful Women in Philanthropy group started in 1999 that now boasts a current membership of more than 900 women. Emerging Leaders calls for members age 40 and younger to contribute $500 or more to the United Way/Community Health Charities Campaign annually.
Among the first to step up in support of Emerging Leaders was T. J. Casady, First Vice President at Union Bank & Trust Company, who had served as a loaned executive in the 2003 United Way/ Community Health Charities Campaign. That experience introduced Casady to the fundraising aspect of United Way campaigns and prompted him to be excited about the possibilities for the new group. “This looked like a great opportunity to do something more for United Way,” he said.
On a fact-finding trip to Topeka, Kansas to visit with members of a similar organization there, Casady found a lively group of young people who were having fun helping their community. “I liked that this effort was going to be more than just raising more money. We could have fun volunteering with many of the local agencies funded by United Way and in doing so experience the needs first-hand and create meaningful connections to inspire philanthropic support.”
Lona Thompson who provides staff support to the group, reports that a steering committee has been organized and nearly 200 people have become Emerging Leaders through their individual contribution of $500 or more. Already, the group has embarked on programs and events that combine fun with community involvement.
Working with Women in Philanthropy, Emerging Leaders helped to raise over $3,700 for the United Way Book Drive held last May. In addition, members read to children as part of United Way’s June 21st Day of Action. Some shared their golfing expertise with children from the Willard Community Center during the Day of Caring in September. Families joined in the fun with an afternoon of harvest-oriented activities at Roca Berry Farms this fall. Admission fee proceeds went to support Thanksgiving food baskets for families in need in Lincoln and Lancaster County.
Casady admits that the group is “learning as we go.” But he knows this for sure, “we have big dreams for Lincoln and we can accomplish all of them by being connected and by having meaningful, family-oriented volunteer opportunities and other events where every person will see how all these interactions can benefit them and our community.”
For more information about Emerging Leaders, contact Lona Thompson, 402.441.7213 or by email at email@example.com.
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