Anonymous Donor Spreads $33M around Lincoln, Nebraska

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February 4, 2014; The Republic

Talk about sector agnosticism! There are nine groups in Milford, Nebraska—including the city of Milford itself and a nine-hole golf course—that will be making good use of a total of $6.85 million in donations made by an anonymous donor. The town of Milford (pop. ~2000) is approximately 15 miles from Lincoln, where another 32 entities have received $26 million from the same donor.

Before we go on, remember that a recent study of trends among donors of a million dollars or more found that most of these gifts were local. This story epitomizes that.

Some organizations, like the Salvation Army, which received $1 million, report that they received notice of the gifts by letter. The grantees are as large as Nebraska Wesleyan University and the University of Nebraska Foundation and as small as the village of Douglas, boasting 173 residents.

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A peek into who might be behind the effort comes from a statement made by Union Bank & Trust, which is managing the gifts. “The donor’s intent was to show sincere appreciation to the community of Lincoln, state of Nebraska, and all those who have made Union Bank successful over the past 50 years,” according to Brad Philson, first vice president and senior trust officer. “The appreciation for this support comes not only from the owners but from the directors, shareholders, officers and associates of Union Bank.”

There are some restrictions on some of the money. The city of Milford, for instance, with an annual budget of $3 million, must use its $1.6 million gift for enhancements, not tax relief, and it has to be placed in endowments. The city is considering projects like a recreational trail, repairing curbs and streets, improving access for disabled people, and adding infrastructure for housing.—Ruth McCambridge