Agency for Change- Jeff Yost, President and CEO, Nebraska Community Foundation » KidGlov

Announcer:

Welcome to Agency for Change, a podcast from KidGlov that brings you the stories of changemakers who are actively working to improve our communities. In every episode, we’ll meet with people who are making a lasting impact in the places we call home.

Kelley Peterson:

Hello everyone. We’ve had a number of remarkable guests on this podcast who lead organizations that empower communities. And today’s guest does this as well. This is Kelley Peterson, vice president nonprofit creative director at KidGlov. I’d like to welcome Jeff Yost, president and CEO of the Nebraska Community Foundation to the show. Jeff, I’m eager to talk with you to learn more about how you and your team are unleashing local assets, inspiring charitable giving, and connecting people to build strong communities in Nebraska.

Jeff Yost:

Hello Kelley, thanks for having me here.

Kelley Peterson:

My pleasure. Jeff, would you take a minute to tell us more about the work of the Nebraska Community Foundation?

Jeff Yost:

Sure. So Nebraska is an amazing place, and Nebraskans are amazing people. And the Nebraska Community Foundation is built to help empower people to do good things in their home places. We do community economic development work of all shapes and sizes ranging from early childhood development to leadership, youth engagement, economic development, all sorts of different things to help communities not only be places to prosper, but great places to live and work, and especially great places to raise our kids.

Jeff Yost:

We do that in about 270 communities around the state. And one of the primary tools we use is philanthropy. So last year, we had nearly 9,000 individual gifts to our affiliated funds, millions and millions of dollars. And in any given year, we’ll reinvest $35 to $50 million in Nebraska hometowns. So it’s wonderful work, and I’m lucky to get to do it every day.

Kelley Peterson:

Wow. 270 places. That is remarkable. In addition to helping those 270 places, the foundation has had so many exciting initiatives in the works right now. Can you tell us about the Greater Nebraska youth survey and how young Nebraskans are changing the rural narrative?

Jeff Yost:

Sure. So we’ve always had this paradox in Nebraska that we all grew up in great places. But for some reason, most of the adults in our lives were telling us our futures were someplace else. And no society can sustain itself if in fact we’re encouraging the next generation to be somewhere else.

Jeff Yost:

So for many, many years, the Nebraska Community Foundation has been working with thousands of community leaders to help change the narrative. And we know that in today’s economy, we really can live and work from anywhere we want to live and work. The question is, “why here?”

Jeff Yost:

Historically, we’ve assumed the question is jobs. But that’s not really the case. And the youth survey really helps illustrate many of these facts that high school aged kids are thinking about the economy and the future very differently than you and I did, Kelley, when we were growing up many years ago.

Jeff Yost:

So in 2020 and 2021, we’ve now surveyed about 2,500 high school students from 25 different communities. Places ranging from Albion, to Stuart, to Grant, to Deshler, to Columbus, to Shickley, and Norfolk to Diller. All over the state, lots of different sized places. Very, very different communities. And we’re seeing some thematics come through loud and clear.

Jeff Yost:

First of all, the next generation is super committed to both themselves and their home places. 87% of these kids work. 84% of these kids play sports and do extracurricular activities. And seven out of 10 of them volunteer regularly. 82% are planning to go to college. And here’s one that really blew us away. 64% of these 2,500 students say they want to live as adults in places like my hometown when they’re adults.

Jeff Yost:

This is very, very different. Because again, technology has just completely switched the script on the economy and jobs, and being able to live and work wherever you want to live and work. And we’re beginning to see this come through. I mean, these kids have had technology in their lives all of their lives. So it’s just what they’re used to. And they’re used to being connected.

Jeff Yost:

The other things we’ve found from these kids that are incredibly encouraging is these students are really committed to inclusivity. They’re really committed to tolerance. They’re really committed to diversity. And they’re really committed to want to make a difference. So the most important thing that we’ve found in this survey isn’t necessarily that kids love their hometowns. We’ve known that. The most important thing that adults can take from the survey data is that only one in four of these students feel like they’re being invited enough to make a difference. So we encourage adults to really think long and hard and take the action of not just asking young people their opinions, but asking young people to be a part of the solution to be real difference makers. And the sooner we can be difference makers in life, the better our lives are going to be.

Kelley Peterson:

Wow. You’ve just said so many impactful things right there. And the seven out 10 that volunteer, wow.

Jeff Yost:

Can you believe that with as busy as they are? And they’re taking extra time to make a difference in other people’s lives.

Kelley Peterson:

And that’s why they want to be involved in the future too, and why we need to ask them to come to the tables right now. So we talked about the youth perspective a little bit, but there’s a whole nother end of the spectrum that has to do with another initiative you’ve been working on for quite some time. And it’s the transfer of wealth study. And I hear you’re just about to release a new report. Tell us about that work.

Jeff Yost:

Sure. So an intergenerational transfer of wealth is a pretty simple concept to understand. It’s the wealth that parents leave their children. So when parents pass away, the next generation gets whatever parents have put in place. One of the things we’re fundamentally committed to in the Nebraska Community Foundation is the idea of abundance. Nebraska has tremendous abundance in so many different ways. In people, in work habit, in civic commitment to one another. And also in financial prosperity. For many, many parents like my parents who came through The Depression, it’s almost unimaginable how wealthy and prosperous the United States is and Nebraska is. So one of the things we’ve really worked on is that within an attitude of abundance, there can be an attitude of generosity.

Jeff Yost:

So for instance, one of the things my parents are doing in their estate planning is I’m the sixth of six children. So not only are they taking whatever they have and dividing it by the number of children they have, but they’re actually treating our hometown as another child in their estate. What a cool idea, right? If somebody were to treat their hometown as another child in their estate, or maybe even think about taking 5% of whatever they have and giving it back to the place where they had a great quality of life, all their friendships, raised their family, etc., etc. What a lovely legacy.

Jeff Yost:

So the Nebraska Community Foundation has really been a pioneer in this work. We did the first study on a county by county basis in Nebraska in 2002. And really that was the first study of its kind in the whole nation. And that’s now been emulated all over the country to help illustrate this whole idea of abundance.

Jeff Yost:

We did another study in 2011. In 2011, we estimated that some $600 billion is going to transfer from one generation to the next in Nebraska. So that’s just an extraordinary sum of money for 1.9 million people. And what we found is there’s a tremendous number of people in Nebraska that have been good savers. And one of the things that Einstein said was, Einstein was asked the question, “What’s the most powerful force in the universe?” And Einstein’s answer was, “Compound interest.” So all these folks that have been really, really good savers over the years, many of them have actually become wealthy people. And during their lives, they’ve been really incredible about giving their time, and their talent, and their talk to the things that they really care about. And within our estate planning, there’s the opportunity to share your treasure, to really leave your legacy to the things you’ve loved, and cared for, and volunteered for all of your lives.

Jeff Yost:

So we see this ethic in dozens and dozens and dozens of Nebraska hometowns, where people are really motivated to want to do something to help the next generation. And to really think through what are all the things we can make a difference in.

Jeff Yost:

So this new study, we’re going to release this study next month. The numbers are even bigger than what they were in 2011. We’ve seen an extraordinary increase in agricultural real estate values in the past 10 years. We’ve also seen the stock market continue to go up, and up, and up. And the wealth that’s in Nebraska, much of that wealth continues to be here and to compound.

Jeff Yost:

So the numbers are just really, really, really big. So it really makes the case that we have abundance. And within that abundance, we can be generous. Not only to our families, but the communities that helped us raise our families.

Jeff Yost:

One of the things we know and we’re really committed to is that good schools don’t make good communities. Great communities make great schools. And that’s true for every institution in our communities. But all of those things, they cost money. So we need to figure out how to manifest this time, and talent, and treasure to continue to help great communities be great communities for the next generation.

Jeff Yost:

The final thing I’ll say on the transfer of wealth is there is an impending threat associated with it as well, because there’s a huge number of people my age, people that are even older than I am, who grew up in these hometowns, continued to have a real soft spot in these hometowns. But they moved off many, many years ago. So when the parents pass away, the children aren’t necessarily in the community where the wealth was made and accumulated. So it’s really a family conversation about what do we want our family legacy to be to our hometown.

Kelley Peterson:

Absolutely. And just when you are talking about those generations, it just brought up all kinds of wonderful thoughts about my grandmother, Genevieve. So thank you for letting me have thoughts about her today. But the frugality of how my grandparents lived their life, I can just see what you’re saying there. Where she would give anyone and everyone within the community that she grew up in, which was also within Nebraska, the shirt off of her back. And then as she grew up and became a mother and a grandmother, there just isn’t anything that she wouldn’t do for those grandkids. And I know that so many families are very similar to that story.

Kelley Peterson:

But when you have successful children and successful grandkids, and whether they are there or not there in those communities, she still has a love for kids and for the next generation of people. And I think that that has been instilled in me. So I hope all of those that do have that wealth that may not be living in those communities have those same thoughts of keeping those places alive, those home places alive where it all started. For sure.

Kelley Peterson:

I just want to make sure that I heard the number correctly, and this was a 2011 number. And you said in Nebraska through this transfer of wealth study, that there’s $600 billion to be transferred. Was that the correct number?

Jeff Yost:

That’s correct. In the next 50 years, what we estimated then was some $600 billion. And our estimate in 2021 is substantially larger than that.

Kelley Peterson:

Wow. So-

Jeff Yost:

Tremendous abundance. There’s plenty to go around.

Kelley Peterson:

That’s the next thing I was going to focus on. Of course being a marketer and a lover of words, just the word abundance in and of itself is so perfect for your cause. And the thought of attitude of abundance and attitude of generosity, that is a full word. And it’s totally representative of this great work.

Kelley Peterson:

So a large part of what Nebraska Community Foundation does is asset-based community development. Can you share … and this also, I’m not usually a fan of acronyms, but this one you can’t resist. Can you share what ABCD is, and how it flips the script on philanthropy?

Jeff Yost:

Sure. So ABCD again, pretty simple concept, almost all driven by common sense. But again, so many times, we feel like we need to compete for resources through government. And that’s kind of how the government process works, right? So nonprofits in particular have been socialized to really talk about what we don’t have, what we need, the deficits that exist, etc., etc. ABCD is the opposite of that. It’s abundance, not scarcity. It’s assets, not needs. It’s opportunities, not deficiencies.

Jeff Yost:

The keys of asset-based community development are one, it’s local and it’s bottoms up. Two, it’s really created and sustained through invitation and inviting people to co-create with us. And the third thing that’s so powerful here is the relationship-based nature of this work, and really understanding that people belong. People have a sense of belonging through having their gifts and talents received and appreciated.

Jeff Yost:

So abundance, invitation, co-creation, belonging. All of those are things that we would use as identifying words or key values that we would want in our hometown, and our neighborhood, and our neighbors. As the world has changed and improved in lots of ways, there’s things that we’ve kind of forgotten, or we’ve gotten out of the habit of.

Jeff Yost:

ABCD is an opportunity to kind of remind us of some of those core values and to be able to practice those things. So as you think through the transfer of wealth, the transfer of wealth is really a key manifestation of what an asset based approach could be built upon. Because you really want to build your economy, build your place on the abundance you have locally. If you’re constantly looking externally for answers, we know that that’s not a positive psychological space to be in. So ABCD again helps us have belief, and value, and connection to one another that we can really build the places we want to be a part of.

Jeff Yost:

The last thing I’ll say about ABCD and the transfer of wealth is again, kind of an interesting example of this is ABCD tries to help make the invisible visible. So how do you go through a process like asset mapping to really identify all of the interesting and profound things we have? But as Midwesterners, sometimes we just tend to sort of assume things work. And those assumptions are in some ways really healthy. And in other ways, not. Because sometimes when we assume things, we sort of forget about them.

Jeff Yost:

So for instance, we do lots and lots of ABCD practice. We do lots and lots of asset mapping in different ways. The last couple years, we’ve done an intensive asset mapping practice in Valley County, Nebraska. That’s where Ord is. And not only within traditional assets, institutions, businesses, I mean all the things that are tangible and known. But one of the things we really tried to begin to get a sense of is the artistic community and all of the creatives in this particular community.

Jeff Yost:

So a county of about 4,500 people without a whole lot of effort, easily identified 200 people who are creatives or artisans. So these are woodworkers, quilters, painters, singers, playwrights. I mean just all sorts of different things that are really important for the quality of life in a particular community. And as you began to go through it, you also began to identify lots of different venues, lots of different spaces where people can come and do this.

Jeff Yost:

One of the keys to ABCD practice is commonalities between one another. So sometimes, we may have a year’s long feud over a particular thing. But if we find a new commonality, let’s say it’s music, well that new commonality can actually break down some of that historic animosity and find new ways to cooperate. And again, find ways for a community where the high tide raises all ships.

Kelley Peterson:

I love that it can be art and artisans that can bring everyone together, just the thought of that is-

Jeff Yost:

Part of what we’re always going to try to figure out in doing this is communities can’t be what they once were. Communities are going to have to continue to look forward. And it’s fine to focus on our past and have lots of appreciation and honor for our past. But we can’t turn the clock back. We certainly can’t turn the clock back on the economy. But the more that we can identify these things like all of the creatives that are in community with us. Well, if we look at automation and we look at technology, what we know is that entrepreneurship, and creation, and innovation are the things that are going to spur greater prosperity. Those are the things that are going to change the standard of living for the better.

Jeff Yost:

So it’s not like people that have a creative or innovative mindset are on the margins of the economy anymore. That’s the middle of the economy. So we want to know who these people are and we want to engage them. Because we need the best from everyone in order to collectively prosper and have great places to raise our kids.

Kelley Peterson: 

And the thing about knowing you, Jeff, and knowing about the Nebraska Community Foundation for quite some time now is that you have these types of stories obviously statewide in 270 communities. And it’s just going to continue, and the stories become richer and richer, I can imagine.

Jeff Yost:

Well, and the only people that can build a community are the people that live and work in it. What we’re trying to do is to help people have both a state of mind as well as a set of skills to identify that abundance and mobilize it. And the more we’re looking for it, the more we’re going to find it. The less we’re looking for it, the more cynicism can kind of creep in and have a really negative effect.

Kelley Peterson:

So all of this builds into the future. And Jeff, in your opinion, what does the future of Greater Nebraska look like?

Jeff Yost:

So I think all of Nebraska and including the greater Nebraska has a pretty bright future, but that’s up to us. So the thing that I’m going to start with is my definition of luck. So I believe luck is when opportunity meets preparedness. I don’t think luck is this thing that just sort of happens. I’m a big proponent that luck is what we make happen. So there are all sorts of opportunities that are going to come our way. Many, many, many of which we haven’t even imagined.

Jeff Yost:

So one of the things that we’ve done, and one of the things that I’ve been committed to for a really, really long time is with all the changes in government and all the changes that we’ve gone through in the past 50 years, we need to keep rethinking the tools that we have. So one of the most important things we do in the Nebraska Community Foundation is to help community based affiliated funds create and capitalize an unrestricted endowment for their home place. So whatever they define that geography as.

Jeff Yost:

So this is money for the future and money that I can’t imagine what it might be used for. But let’s just take a million dollar unrestricted endowment. And lots, and lots, and lots of Nebraska communities now have this. If you just use a typical payout from that in an equity weighted portfolio, you’d use 4.5% a year. So that’s $45,000 a year of discretionary income that these volunteer community leaders can reinvest in their home place. And I have no idea what they’re going to spend it on.

Jeff Yost:

So much of what we need to keep building in all of these places is efficacy and the idea that I do have the opportunity to impact my future. Can I control my future? No, way too many variables. Can I impact it, and guide it, and kind of have a helping hand with my future and my community’s future? Absolutely.

Jeff Yost:

And the more communities can really embrace the idea that we’re not going backwards, we’re going forwards, but we do have lots of tools. We have lots of knowledge. We have lots of abundance, and we have lots of relationships. Together, we can figure out how to create the hometowns of our dreams.

Jeff Yost:

So the future of greater Nebraska is fully in the hands of the people of greater Nebraska. The only people that can build a community are the people that live and work in it. Nebraska has 529 municipalities. I don’t know how many of those will be here 50 years from now. My guess is most of them. What my greatest hope is, is almost all of those places have great housing, great schools, great people, great opportunities. Because these are the things that people can really build a life on.

Jeff Yost:

The other thing we’re going to have to keep doing in greater Nebraska, and all of Nebraska, is really embracing that life will not only change, it will be different. So that’s why the issues and the youth survey associated with inclusion and tolerance I think are so incredibly important, because we’re not going to continue to just have the same Anglo-Saxon communities we have today. Our communities are going to keep changing. People from around the world, in all likelihood, are going to be moving to Nebraska because of climate change. We’re probably going to experience a fair number of climate refugees in the middle part of the United States. That’s an enormous opportunity for Nebraska. We’re 50,000 workers short at the moment. We need more people to move to Nebraska. And we need to really be open to what’s possible. And what’s possible may be that it’s not people that are exactly like ourselves. It’s people that are a little bit different. They’ve had a little bit different experiences. But at the end of the day, in my opinion, people are people. Almost all people have big hearts and big brains. And I really want to take the opportunity to have these people as friends, and colleagues and neighbors.

Kelley Peterson:

I have to write that down as quickly as I can, big hearts and big brains. Because it’s so true. And I think to me, and working in the nonprofit sector as much as I have in my career, there was a key word that you said there. And it ties to another thing that you said about a state of mind. And the key word that I’m thinking of that you mentioned is “unrestricted.” And when you’re doing any philanthropy of any kind, the importance of the word of unrestricted and having a different state of mind to think of I’m investing now so that the leaders of the future, whoever they may be and whatever they decide to do, that that is a good investment in the future. I think that sometimes, we do have a hard time changing our state of mind and that unrestricted piece of why we’re living right now, that we want to control the future in some way. And that’s what restricted dollars do. But can you speak to that a little bit?

Jeff Yost:

Sure. And I’ll actually come back and refer to something that you referred to earlier. So it’s our mission statement. And our mission statement is we unleash abundant assets, inspire charitable giving, and connect ambitious people to build stronger communities and a greater Nebraska.

Jeff Yost:

The key to all of this to me is trying to help people want to cooperate, not making them cooperate. What we know about philanthropy is we can’t make anybody do anything. We can only motivate and inspire. But the more people have a sense of power, a sense of efficacy, and a sense that they have some say in their destiny, the more likely, so if they’re feeling empowered, they’re more open to what’s possible. And these are all the things we need to continue to figure out as we move forward is what are all the things that should be local or should be re-localized? And what are all the things we should be doing more cooperatively than we do today?

Jeff Yost:

And all of this change is really hard, right? Because as human beings, we get in habits. There’s lots of habits we’re comfortable with. And habits are comforting, right? I know what’s going to happen. So, so much of what we’re trying to do is to help people safely challenge their own conventional wisdom and challenge the conventional wisdom that uniquely exists in their place. Because each place has its own personality, just like every person has their own personality. So how do you help have those conversations about what’s possible? What should we be open to as opposed to what should we just be scared of? And again, it all fits back into the ABCD stuff of having this mindset of abundance, this mindset of you’re open to the possibilities. This mindset that generosity isn’t going to be this thing that boomerangs on me. Generosity is going to be this thing that has a perpetual and compounding effect. One good deed perpetuates another good deed, etc., etc. The more we have communities, the more we have individuals, the more we have communities that are acting in that way, the better things are going to get.

Jeff Yost:

Because we don’t know what the future looks like. I’m not nearly smart enough to know how the unrestricted money shouldn’t be spent today, let alone 30 or 50 years from now. But what I do know is what we’re doing with these unrestricted endowments is helping people plant trees, not corn. And the key with a tree is you need to be in a position to be able to plant it. And hopefully, you’re going to be able to grow old with that tree so you can appreciate the shade in the fruit. But the shade in the fruit might be there for the next generation. And that’s fine. That’s what we’re supposed to do is we’re supposed to be building and sustaining a world that’s going to be better for the next generation than it is for this one.

Kelley Peterson:

Really like that methodology. Jeff, I’m going to change gears here a bit and talk about you. You’ve spent the last 20 plus years at Nebraska Community Foundation, but what were you doing before that? And what drew you to the nonprofit sector?

Jeff Yost:

I’m an economist by training and a farm kid by birth. So have always loved to build things. And I think I’ve always had this innate intuition that people are capable of more than we see frequently.

Jeff Yost:

And it always bothered me a little bit that I grew up, I grew up in Red Cloud. And I was such a lucky kid. As I said, I was the sixth of six kids. So not only did I have a whole bunch of siblings that really loved me, but just dozens and dozens of people in my hometown that loved me. And what a great way to grow up as a kid, knowing that all these people not only have your back, but they have your best interest at heart. That’s a really cool thing. That’s a really, really cool backstop as you’re growing up.

Jeff Yost:

But then there was this paradox as I mentioned earlier, that there was this unspoken message of, “You’re a bright articulate kid. Your future is someplace else. We’ll see you for the holidays.” And I don’t know. I wasn’t able to articulate that when I was 16 years old. I probably wasn’t able to articulate that until I was 30. But it was always sort of there. That’s a really weird dichotomy, right?

Jeff Yost:

So I’ve always really been interested in politics and public policy. So used my economics work to do lots of work. Ended up having an opportunity to go to work in the governor’s office in my mid twenties, which was a really incredible experience. Learned all these things that I don’t think I would’ve had the opportunity to learn any place else, got to be the lead staff on federalism, and devolution, and all these incredible changes that were happening to the systems.

Jeff Yost:

But what I found, although I loved the public policy part, I didn’t love the politics part. Because change that sticks, especially positive change that sticks, it doesn’t happen in election cycles. It happens over generations.

Jeff Yost:

So I started looking around for what are the other things I could do where I could continue to get to flex that muscle to try to help improve and create public good, but to be able to do it in timeframes that were likely to make a difference, not just election timeframes where things just swing back and forth.

Jeff Yost:

And some friends of mine who were in state government had created this little enterprise called the Nebraska Community Foundation. So I became the first full-time employee of the Nebraska Community Foundation in 1998. And since then, it’s just grown, and evolved and matured. I still think of the Nebraska Community Foundation as very much as an adolescent, because we’re growing very quickly and changing very quickly. But it really has been a life’s work to get to learn about all this. And then I’ve been really lucky in having the opportunity to be able to share the story of the Nebraska Community Foundation all over the United States, all over the world.

Jeff Yost:

But what I always find is any time I have the opportunity to share this stuff, I always learn more than I share. And that’s the part that I love the most is I love to learn new things and figure out how we can make existing things work just a little bit better.

Kelley Peterson:

Excellent. What advice do you have for other leaders who want to make a difference in the world?

Jeff Yost:

I reflected on this question when you put it out there, and that’s a really hard question. Because I didn’t know exactly what my path was going to be, and I don’t think anybody else really does either. But what I’ve come down to, to try to answer your question here is, especially today, and especially in light of the pandemic, I think more and more people are coming to this. And I think it becomes better and better advice, which is: identify your passion and pursue it. And I’ve been lucky enough to be able to do that is to identify my passion for building, identify my passion for people, identify my passion for wanting to make the world a better place, and then having the opportunity to pursue it.

Jeff Yost:

And then the other thing that I would say to young people is none of that’s going to change in two years, or four years, or maybe even 10 years. We hear about all these things that people are going to have X number of jobs in their lifetime. I’m hopeful that I’ve found my life’s work.

Jeff Yost:

So I’ve been here for 23 years. And I’m hopeful that this is my life’s work, because that’s the way is I think we end up being able to change things and to create that positive change that sticks is this sort of community building work, it’s patient and tenacious. So if something you’re working on is patient and tenacious, and lots and lots of things especially related to human behavior are that. Especially if you want good outcomes from that, people are going to need to be willing to stick with it. So identify your passion, pursue it, and stick with it.

Kelley Peterson:

Great advice. And I think it aligns very well with your definition of luck. So passion, when you have a passion, it does help you prepare. And then those opportunities, “Well, I don’t know how I got here.” Well, you may say you didn’t necessarily decide your path. But by having a passion and pursuing it, it aligned you in such a way for the opportunities that you have. So if you can look at it that way, that’s perfect advice for sure.

Jeff Yost:

And then the second thing I’d like to share if I could Kelley is, and I know some of what I’ve said today is Nebraskans need to be a little bit more humble and be a little more appreciative of everything we have. But I do believe that humility is an incredibly important part of leadership, and being grateful for the people that came before us. We’re all standing on somebody else’s shoulders. Usually many, many, many sets of shoulders.

Jeff Yost:

And one of the things my dad taught me many, many years ago is it never costs you anything to smile, say please and thank you, and really appreciate folks that have done nice things for you. Just be gracious, be humble, be grateful. And all of those things will just help you have a better day each and every day.

Kelley Peterson:

And I think for future generations to come and with the greatness that technology brings us, sometimes it hurts us in the speed of things where we don’t slow down and maybe do some of those essential things like smile. Might not be able to see somebody smile at all because you weren’t having that personal connection, and maybe didn’t take the time to say, “Hey, please. And thank you so much, because I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for this.” So such good advice.

Kelley Peterson:

I talked a little bit earlier about how much I love words. It’s what I get to do. Not only write them, but also get to do podcasts as wonderful as this one is. But I’m inspired by motivational quotes. Jeff, could you give us a few of your own words of wisdom for our listeners?

Jeff Yost:

Sure. I’d be happy to try. The first thing that I would share is I’m a big fan of seeking higher ground, not just middle ground. And again, the more we can help people to feel empowered and powerful, the more open they will be to different sorts of solutions. Because many times, the solution isn’t in compromise. The solution is something that if we can pool our resources together, we can get to a better place. So how are the ways that we can aspire to seek higher ground, not just middle ground?

Jeff Yost:

The second one is this. And I think it’s probably understood, but not really appreciated. And I mentioned elements of this previously. But I believe communities, just like people, have their own distinct personalities, and each and every one of them, communities and people, have a self-fulfilling prophecy. And what we are trying to do in our work is to help communities have a more positive self-fulfilling prophecy. Because that just like a snowball rolling down a hill picks up speed, and it picks up volume, and it picks up power.

Jeff Yost:

So the more that you can help create a positive self-fulfilling prophecy not just for yourself and your neighbors, but for your community in general, the more attractive that community will be for other people to want to be in community with you.

Jeff Yost:

The final one I’ll share is that community building is maybe one of the greatest teams sports we have. Community building is not this individual thing. I’m a big fan that lots of people in community development over the years have talked about the need for communities to have a spark plug. I’m a big fan that I think communities need to have a bigger internal combustion engine with more pistons in it. A spark plug just helps you get started. The engine, especially with more pistons in it, that’s actually going to create more power. And then the final one, and this again comes back to the abundance thing. And this is really true. Everyone and everything in Nebraska works.

Kelley Peterson:

That is a great one. So good. Well, and I think I could have, and just have in my notes here so many motivational quotes, even just within our conversation. So much great content. When you were talking about the one about communities and they each have their own personalities, and prophecies, and things like that. Again, being a marketer and a brander, I think that your description of that is exactly what KidGlov tries to do with every brand that we serve, is figure out their personality and figure out how they fit within the community and prosper. So it was the best branding description, even though that wasn’t what you were describing, I’ve probably ever heard. So for our listeners who would like to, go ahead.

Jeff Yost:

Well, I just think there’s a really important element to that too, is that the advantage of having a brand is so people know you. And one of the primary reasons you want people to know you is not just to know your values and the other good work you’re doing. But we all make mistakes. So a good brand creates the opportunity for forgiveness. And within community building, that’s incredibly important because we’re all going to make mistakes, and we all need to keep learning to find more and more ways to be forgiving to move forward together.

Kelley Peterson:

Yes. And the reason that forgiveness is part of branding, and good brand, and good branding is that all brands should have a human context, and so should communities. Because communities are built out of the people that live them. Same thing with living a brand. It isn’t about the bricks and mortar. It’s about every individual that works there that has humanity, and vulnerability, and everything else. And those that are most successful put that out, and take those risks, and prosper together because of it. So good stuff.

Kelley Peterson:

For our listeners who would like to learn more about your work and how to support you, how can they find out more about Nebraska Community Foundation?

Jeff Yost:

Well, the easiest way to do it is just Google Nebraska Community Foundation. So we’ve got a big online presence. We’re available on social media. Easy to find.

Kelley Peterson:

Excellent. As we wrap up our time together today, what is the most important thing you would like our listeners to remember about the work you’re doing?

Jeff Yost:

I think in this day and age, it’s related to belonging. If we want people to be in communities and really be interested, active, committed community members, we have to have a sense of belonging. So the thing I’ll come back and reinforce is that people belong through having their gifts and talents received and appreciated.

Jeff Yost:

One of the lovely things that happens in lots and lots of communities we work in is that if a new resident moves to town, somebody will bring them a fresh loaf of bread. Which is an awesome thing to welcome someone. What I would encourage people to do is to take step two and actually have a cup of coffee with them and find out really what makes them tick. What are they passionate about? What are the things that they would like to give of themselves? What are the things they would like to share? Because in that process, that’s how people begin to feel a sense of belonging, not just a sense of feeling welcome.

Kelley Peterson:

Jeff, I want to appreciate your many talents. And one of those, you’ve shared so many. But I thank you for taking the time to be on this podcast. And I fully believe the world needs more changemakers like you. Thank you so much for sharing your time with us today.

Jeff Yost:

Thank you, Kelley. Have a great one.

Announcer:

We hope you enjoy today’s Agency for Change podcast. To hear all our interviews with those who are making a positive change in our communities or to nominate a changemaker you’d love to hear from, visit kidglov.com at K-I-D-G-L-O-V .com to get in touch. As always, if you like what you’ve heard today, be sure to rate, review, subscribe, and share. Thanks for listening, and we’ll see you next time.

Download the transcription