Tucked away in the corner of an Omaha brewery, young professionals gather. In just a few months, that very brewery will be the site of their latest fundraising campaign, hopefully, filled to the brim with people and lined with the smiling faces of children and families along the walls.
These professionals, relaxed and focused on one mission, meet on average once a month as Nebraska Children’s Home Society’s BRANCH Board of Directors. The name implies its goal: Building Revenue and Awareness for Nebraska Children’s Home Society.
However, what the small board of between eight and 20 members have accomplished in just a year speaks volumes of its small but mighty impact.
“I have learned that our community has an immense need to assist children and help place them with caring families. I have also learned invaluable information about NCHS,” member Wilson Banks said. “BRANCH gives people the opportunity to have an immediate and direct impact on the Omaha community.”
The board, as explained by current members, is very laid back and fun, but members are hyper-focused on furthering the mission of NCHS.
The board is volunteer based, and directors dedicate time toward the advancement, growth and increased awareness of Nebraska Children’s Home Society.
“The work NCHS does is often quietly done for the benefit of people who need those services. This board provides NCHS with awareness, donors and volunteers with limited direct involvement, allowing the NCHS staff to stay focused on other tasks that further that same mission,” board president Pat Burke said.
Much like any board, there are elected officials, bylaws and requirements.
Members serve a minimum of three years, but they can be re-elected to serve a second term for another three years.
Only two terms can be served, but members can return to serve on the board a year later, according to BRANCH Board bylaws.
Though meetings are monthly, they do tend to increase in frequency as it gets closer to the board’s signature event. Members are required to attend at least 50 percent of meetings to maintain membership on the board. Participation on the BRANCH Board isn’t overly time consuming and engages members in community service, so members tend to be regularly involved and active.
“We get together and get things done, but we have a lot of fun while we are doing it!” fundraising chair Amanda Sudbeck said. “I feel like I’m a happier person when I’m making a difference in my community.”
For the last 13 years, the BRANCH board has coordinated Homegrown, a low-key event showcasing and honoring the children and families NCHS has served.
A local photographer graciously donates his or her time and talent to capture the love, smiles and pure joy shown between the children and families NCHS serves.
“Every child deserves to have an advocate, but, unfortunately, not all do. The connections that NCHS helps make happen are amazing. It’s an organization that truly cares about these kids and families,” Sudbeck said.
Photographs are showcased and revealed for the first time at the event, which for the last four years has been held at a local brewery.
“BRANCH cares and just to be a part of that and live that mission is just awesome, and NCHS is an amazing place,” member Michele Brown said.
Members come from different businesses all across the Omaha metropolitan area, and many discovered the board through past members or even members of the agency’s Board of Directors.
Some, like Kelli Sweet who has been on the board since 2014, have an even more personal tie to the agency.
“I wanted to give back to NCHS as I was adopted through the agency, and they assisted me in meeting my birth mother,” Sweet said. “I enjoy the opportunity to work with other like-minded individuals who have high energy and enthusiasm for the mission of the organization.”
More than 150 people stood nearly shoulder to shoulder in a private room at Kros Strain Brewery in October, raising nearly $20,000 to further the agency’s vision of “a safe and loving family for every child.”
It took months of preparation, meetings and a few uncomfortable questions for members to see success.
“It’s been a learning curve for fundraising for me, but it’s been fun because I’ve realized once you say, ‘Hey, I’m looking for something for this local fundraiser,’ a lot of Nebraska businesses will say, ‘What do you need?’ They really help you out. I was really scared about it,” said Brown said, who joined the board in January.
The personal skills members learn, too, are invaluable as many members said being on the board has helped them grow professionally.
“The biggest thing I learned was leadership skills to help make an event successful. Being able to encourage others, communicate the benefits to companies for sponsorships and give and take feedback was incredible in my development,” Burke said. “The board allows people to really find their strengths and leverage those areas for the good of the overall event.”
It’s cold and windy on that October night, but warmth radiates from the faces of BRANCH board members during Homegrown as they explain to friends, families, coworkers and new acquaintances why they’re all so passionate about the services being provided through NCHS.
Sweet, an adviser to the board, described the board as having a, “Work hard. Play hard,” type mentality, which is evident through the interactions each member has with the dozens of people packed into the room, nearly every person smiling and lighting up as they speak about NCHS.
“It’s a fun board experience combined with the ability to impact others for the better,” Burke said. “This board has allowed me to meet influential people from all over Omaha. The networking and personal growth this has provided me is invaluable and something I could not have achieved without NCHS and the Homegrown event.”
There are currently openings on the BRANCH board of directors, and new members are elected throughout the year.
For details on how to join the BRANCH board, contact Leah Lindell at 402.898.7783 or firstname.lastname@example.org.