Tag Archives: Kali Baker

Matt Darling

April 27, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

The Omaha Community Foundation was designed to pool donations into a coordinated investment and grant-making facility dedicated to Omaha’s social improvement.

Learning and/or knowing the people of the community to help improve Omaha’s social services is an especially vital skill for OCF’s vice president of donor services, Matt Darling. Darling’s job is multi-faceted; ultimately, he is responsible for helping donors achieve their desired level of giving.

When people determine they want to give money, no matter how big or how small, Omaha Community Foundation starts an account for that donor. The money itself is held at Wells Fargo, and the OCF executive staff works with their board of directors to manage the assets. Donors opening accounts of at least $25,000 then have a donor advised fund. That fund is exposed to market trends, meaning it could go up or down with the stock market.

The donor services work involves collaborating with Omaha’s community of financial advisers to help bring funds into the foundation, often answering questions about where is the best place to use funds. Each account is individualized, so donors are able to manage their own money. Some donors want OCF to keep track of how their account is doing, while others know exactly where they want their dollars to be spent. It involves creating relationships with each donor and figuring out what they want, a skill in which others say Darling excels.

“Matt doesn’t need to have the right idea in the room, but he’ll find the right idea,” says Kevin Welsh, senior vice president of the Welsh Friesen Group at Morgan Stanley. “He wants to get it right. There’s no alternative motive with him other than what’s right for the situation.”

That desire to get it right comes from the desire to work for the community. It’s a switch from his previous job as co-owner of Paramount Parking. In 2013, with a fiancée and a desire to start a family, Darling began considering the idea of working at a nonprofit.

He reached out to Sara Boyd, OCF executive director, for a lunch meeting—one that turned out to have longtime implications.

“The first lunch we went to, I knew he was the right fit [for OCF],” Boyd says. “He is smart and business-savvy, as well as kind, artistic, and analytical.”

Although she did not have a  job opening at the time, she hired him as director of donor services later that year.

A larger part of this work is building relationships with the 1,500 OCF donors, whether they are giving $100 or $1 million.

“Matt’s really thoughtful,” Welsh says. “You can talk to him, or someone with $5-6 billion can talk to him, and they are the same to him.”

It’s a necessary skill for the job that requires a unique quality, as the donor services department works with people from all walks of life. Darling takes it in stride.

“When you think of philanthropy, you think of a wealthy man in a suit. That’s not necessarily the case,” Darling says.

Using OCF to discover where to give means engaging in a network of like-minded philanthropists and philanthropic organizations. The donor relations team researches specific nonprofits to provide donors (and potential donors) with in-depth details about nonprofit programs, leadership, target populations, goals, and uses of funds. They also research issues and causes that donors and potential donors identify with and let people know what organizations would work well for them.

While the donor relations team works with individuals and corporations, Darling particularly enjoys working with families in the areas of family giving and succession planning, in which one family will choose a specific charity to give to throughout various family members’ lifetimes.

“It’s very satisfying,” Darling says. “We’ve been working with some families now for two, three generations.”

Navigating the wishes of multiple generations can be tricky. The first generation’s idea of the perfect nonprofit may not be the same as the second generation’s idea, and the second generation sometimes sits back and feels ignored.

Darling refuses to let that happen.

“Matt is excellent at bringing people to the table and asking what is meaningful to the individuals and taking something that will be meaningful to people on all sides of that conversation,” Boyd says.

He already had a bachelor’s degree in business and studio art from Hastings College. But to learn more about nonprofit funding, Darling enrolled in American College in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. He earned a Chartered Advisor in Philanthropy designation, learning about family wealth dynamics and nonprofits.

He didn’t stop there; he now helps to facilitate CAP study groups with SilverStone Group’s Mark Weber. The facilitator role keeps him connected with the local financial advising community.

“The lectures are online. At the OCF, I brought the idea to them to host study groups of professional advisers,” Weber says. “(Darling) helps invite guests, helps facilitate the classes…We’ve had panels of nonprofit directors. We’ve had panels of heads of private foundations. I’ve had panels of professional advisers on how best to work together, and a number of high-profile philanthropists who have shared their life story about their philanthropy.”

Darling brings people together for the common good of trying to strengthen the amount of giving in the community. He uses his knowledge to work with his OCF team, which includes CFO Melisa Sunde and vice president of community relations Kali Baker, among many others. Through the team effort, the organization has enabled more than $1 billion to be donated throughout Omaha since its inception in 1982. That means the city that is 42nd in size in America is the 17th highest for charitable dollars.

“I’ve never worked in a place where the entire staff is so focused on doing good,” Darling says. “The team is second to none.”

He, along with his team, takes a great pride in making this community a better place for everyone.

“I live an incredibly fortunate life,” Darling says.

Visit omahafoundation.org for more information.

This article appeared in the May/June 2017 edition of Omaha Magazine.

Matt Darling

The Science of Charity

May 21, 2014 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Kali Baker knows well how the better angels of our nature think. She knows that although they are angels, they still love a little competition. They love variety, too. They love prizes. Like their less-noble brethren, they even like to party.

Omaha Gives 2014, the 24-hour-long, online telethon Baker organizes, is as much a psychological experiment as it is a charity. Still, the bottom line isn’t rocket science: The event raises a heck of a lot of money for a heck of a lot of Omaha charities. Last year, in its first outing in the city, this online telethon put on by the Omaha Community Foundation raised $3 million for charities in the area.

“It was just remarkable to watch,” says Baker, who is director of communications for the Foundation. “It’s such a different type of event, we didn’t know for sure what we were getting into. It just felt so good when we saw the numbers.”

Impressive numbers. From midnight to midnight one day last spring, nearly 11,000 people made online donations to 318 participating non-profits.

This year’s Omaha Gives 2014 will be held May 21. At 12:01 a.m. that Wednesday, you can go to omahagives24.org and donate to any one of more than 500 charities in the region.

Here’s how it works. Area non-profits sign up to be a part of the event. All the participating charities are then included on a sort of “Big Board” on the Omaha Gives website. On May 21, people can begin going to the website and donating to any one (or, of course, any number) of the charities listed. Each charity’s name on the board with have a real-time running tally of the money they’ve received.

So, here’s where the mind games come in. The website becomes a scoreboard. All of a sudden, somebody is winning. As is human nature: The volunteers and donors for the five hundred or so other charities decide it would be neat for them to be the leader.

Baker calls that “incentivizing” the event. It gets better.

Last year, many of the charities held events during the day. Donors and volunteers gathered, had fun and very often got on their smart phones and donated. Also, as the excitement built through the day, they contacted their friends, who contacted their friends. That social media thing. Pretty soon, the event was drawing hundreds of new donors and volunteers to the charities involved.
Then came the prizes for hitting certain donation targets. This year, non-profits will compete for prizes in three categories depending on the group’s annual budget.

The Omaha Community Foundation also will be offering matching funds. In addition, each hour, one donation will be randomly selected to be augmented with an additional $1,000.

That’s yet another clever carrot.

“Things can get a bit slow at some points, especially in those early hours of the day,” Baker says. “But that $1,000 each hour should get people fired up to stay involved all day long.”

One group that benefitted greatly was The Union for Contemporary Art. The young non-profit (started in 2011) hosted a lunchtime pizza party the day of the event last year as well as an open house for donors. Numerous donations were made from donors onsite, but most of the donations came through social media, says Brigitte McQueen Shew, The Union’s executive director.

“I basically spent the entire day jumping online and reminding people that even a gift of $10…would make a huge difference.”

More than 200 people donated a total of $13,000, “A huge amount for us,” she says. The Union’s effort earned them one of those $1,000 bonus prizes.

“Omaha Gives basically enabled us to launch (programs) years before I thought we’d have the funds available to make it happen,” she says. “We are truly looking forward to the event this year.”
Sara Boyd, president and CEO of the Foundation, echoes that sentiment. There’s good reason to believe Omaha Gives could grow exponentially in coming years.

“As we look at these event in other communities, the second year presents a huge opportunity to get more people involved in giving,” she says. “People who didn’t know it was happening last year or didn’t understand the premise have a greater opportunity to participate.”

The Omaha Gives day is modeled after a few similar 24-hour, online fundraisers that have popped up in recent years around the country. Because of the immense success of this fundraising formula, Baker says, more and more will likely be showing up around the country.

“It just has been proven to work on numerous levels,” she says. “It has an amazing way of getting people involved, even people who have never been involved before.”

That may be the greatest power of this fundraising formula. Thanks primarily to that intense social media burst, it’s estimated that 30 percent of last year’s donations at the Omaha event came from first-time donors.

“I think one of the great things about Omaha Gives is that it gave us a vehicle for raising awareness about our programs and work,” McQueen Shew says.

That new awareness, and all those first-time donors, means a whole new army of volunteers and donors for those charities as they move forward.

“It’s not just about the money raised, it’s about introducing a great number of new people to a great number of non-profits,” Baker says. “All these neat incentives are just ways to promote giving and bring the community together in new ways.”

Omaha Gives “is empowering, accessible, and meaningful,” Boyd says. “That’s especially important as we seek to develop a new audience of givers in our community.”

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