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Giving Circles: More Impact to Go Around

Recently a New York Times article featured the giving circle model in an article titled “Giving Circles: More Impact to go Around” and we couldn’t help but swell with a little pride about the Omaha Venture Group model getting some national accolades.

Omaha Venture Group is a way for emerging leaders to learn about grassroots grantmaking – a way of donating money that builds connections among donors, nonprofits, and the community.

Our members are ready to go into the field and learn first-hand about the issues that face small and emerging nonprofit agencies across the Omaha Region. We then discuss how our pooled funds can be allocated most effectively to help these agencies serve their clients more effectively and grow stronger organizationally.

Through the giving circle format, the participant gains a base of knowledge that lends itself to a more active and rewarding philanthropic life.

2013 OVG Grantee Purple Wagon Introduces Teens to New Worlds

Elevating start-up nonprofits is a core mission of the Omaha Venture Group.  Just like we are learning to research local needs and organizations, we like to support the newer organizations that are learning about the funding process as well.  So it is always a big reward when one of our grantees draws in the local spotlight for the work they are doing.

Purple Wagon received an Omaha Venture Group grant in 2013.  We are so proud of the impact Founder Chris Ramey is planting in teens he takes on international volunteer trips lives.

“I see us ultimately as a non-faith-based youth group, like a service-oriented youth group, welcoming of anyone,” Ramey said. “Students come to us from all different backgrounds and all different reasons. I want to cultivate a volunteer community, where that’s what we share. We help.”

That call appealed to Kevin McCawley, a Millard West senior who traveled to India with Purple Wagon this summer. It wasn’t all work. The group hiked in the mornings and got in some site-seeing. They even went on an impromptu hang gliding adventure, after securing parental approvals through a series of hastily arranged online chats. But the thrust of the trip took them to the Himalayas, where they taught young Buddhist monks, some of whom were just learning to speak English. They prepared lesson plans and daily activities for their classes. They also worked one-on-one with students.

McCawley says his most memorable moment happened on the plane ride home. As he looked out the window to the ground below, he realized how different it was from when the group left Omaha three weeks before. “That was the point when I realized the world had just been revealed to me,” he wrote in an essay about his experience. “I realized the world I live in is so much bigger than just my home or my Midwestern city. I live in a world packed full of life and aspirations, yet also strife. In that moment, I thought to myself, ‘I will never look at this world quite the same again.’

Read more about Purple Wagon in the recently published Omaha World Herald article –

Now accepting OVG members for 2014

The Omaha Venture Group is gearing up for another round of giving in 2014.  If you are interested in learning about local nonprofits, the granting process, and becoming an engaged donor, we’d love to have you join us.

OVG also offers plenty of social events to get to know the other members and past grant recipients.  With a generous match from local foundations, your membership fee is amplified to create a greater impact from your giving.

Fill out the membership form below to get started.

OVG Membership Form

Banister’s Leadership Academy

Banister’s Leadership Academy’s mission is to teach youth leadership, life, and social skills so youth will have the ability to plan, organize, and execute a successful future. With a focus on youth ages 5-18 in the Omaha-Council Bluffs metropolitan area, Bannister’s works to ensure the youth are provided with resources, services, and education to help youth successfully plan, manage, and implement leadership skills. Bannister’s will use the OVG funds for program incentives for its North Omaha, South Omaha and Council Bluffs Youth Advocacy Leadership Board and for group T-shirts to be worn by the youth board members for use during community service and service learning projects.

Great Plains Black History Museum

The Great Plains Black History Museum chronicles the history of African Americans in Nebraska and in the Great Plains States. The Museum serves several communities – North Omaha, City of Omaha, State of Nebraska, Great Plains Region and Nationally.  Great Plains Black History Museum will use the grant to support its Archival Preservation efforts. The project is to reunify and catalog all records for future digitization to allow for more widespread usage by the public.


Hear Nebraska

Hear Nebraska is a nonprofit cultural organization that cultivates the state’s vibrant, fertile music and arts community. By providing resources and a voice for bands, artists and members of Nebraska’s creative class — as well as the businesses that support them — Hear Nebraska strives to make the state a globally recognized cultural destination.

The Omaha Venture Group grant will be used to create HN Radio, a 24/7 online stream of Nebraska music that will actually allow people in the state and across the world to “hear” Nebraska. We produce, by any standards, an incredible amount of original multimedia content on our site everyday telling the story of Nebraska’s (and primarily Omaha’s) rich arts culture. And to make OMaha and surrounding areas a destination for bands and creative class members to visit and live. HN Radio will not only tell this story in a new way, but it will do much to make the organization sustainable by getting this engaging content and fundraising message to new ears through handheld digital devices, and other online outlets.

For now, follow HearNebraska, and all the great stories about Nebraska music and culture at

Heart Heroes, Inc.

Heart Heroes is an Omaha-based organization devoted to helping children with congenital heart defects (CHD) and their families cope with the adversity associated with CHD. Currently, Heart Heroes provides customized “super-hero” capes to children with CHD to help empower these brave children as they face numerous complex medical procedures. Heart Heroes will use the OVG Grant to fund the self-publishing of an autobiographical book by one of its founders, which tells the story of her daughter who suffers from CHD, and her family’s journey through the many medical procedures, and emotional rollercoaster that goes along with it. The group hopes that this book will not only provide a great resource to families dealing with CHD, but also raise funds to allow Heart Heroes to expand the reach and breath of its services.

Metro Area Volunteer Guardians & Conservators

Metropolitan Area Volunteer Guardians and Conservators recruit and support volunteers who would serve as guardian for persons in need. The organization provides a volunteer guardian and a pro bono attorney to handle the court procedure.  Metropolitan Area Volunteer Guardians and Conservators will use the grant to staff a part time person to assist with the dramatically increased number of annual court forms and navigate the new Medicaid procedures. This will also allow other staff/volunteers to focus their time on recruitment efforts.


Omaha Chamber Music Society

The Omaha Chamber Music Societies (OCMS) mission is to bring outstanding chamber music to the greater Omaha community through performances, education and outreach.  As part of their outreach program OCMS will use their grant from OVG to expand their partnership with The Hospice House.  The grant will allow OCMS to increase their visits to Hospice house from twice to four times per month for the next year.  They will also use part of the grant to better research and document the benefits of bringing music to the patients during their final days.  It is their belief that the information gathered will make a strong case that allows OCMS to increase and find more permanent donor support for this wonderful program.

Quiet Light Foundation

The Quiet Light Foundation (QLF) provides support to families with prematurely born infants and children with special needs in the Omaha community. The OVG grant will provide the opportunity for the QLF to cover their operating costs as well as make a significant difference in the lives of QLF families by providing them the support and encouragement  in the form of care packages that will be made available to families at the hospital.