Nonprofit organizations cannot succeed without funders. Ogallala Commons would not have grown its innovative mission without a decade of steady support from The CHS Foundation, and its current president, William Nelson.
William Nelson, VP Corporate Citizenship and President, CHS Foundation, (left) shakes hands with 2013 Community Intern Beto Rinco, (right) at the 2013 Intern Orientation. Photo courtesy of Alphonso Rincon
The CHS Foundation is the major giving entity of CHS, Inc., a diversified energy, grains, and foods committed to providing the essential resources that enrich lives. CHS, Inc. is also a cooperative–in fact, the largest agribusiness cooperative in the U.S., and owned by over 370,000 farmers, ranchers, smaller cooperatives, and preferred stockholders across the country.
The CHS Foundation is committed to investing in the future of rural America, agriculture, and cooperative business. The CHS Foundation supports education and leadership development in rural America, but is also open to innovative and collaborative approaches to address emerging issues and opportunities in rural communities. That is the main reason that the work of Ogallala Commons appealed to this foundation. But that is only part of the story.
In 2002, OC’s co-founders: Vince Shively and Bob Mailander, shared the Ogallala Commons project idea with Bob Elliott, a farmer from Hemingford, Nebraska and a former Director for The CHS Foundation. Thankfully, Mr. Elloitt (now deceased) encouraged William Nelson to learn more about Ogallala Commons, and “see what good things those folks are up to.” William attended our 2004 Fall Conference in Wray, Colorado. The event wasn’t well attended, but some first impression demonstrated to Mr. Nelson that Ogallala Commons had potential. In 2005, Ogallala Commons applied for and received its first grant funding from CHS Foundation, and annual funding has continued since then. Last year, CHS Foundation made a longer-term investment: a 3-year $250,000 grant to build capacity for OC’s Community Internship & Apprentice Program.
Along with the grant funding, William Nelson’s presence, attention, and encouragement have been essential to Ogallala Commons. Over the past 10 years, he has attended at least one OC event per year, and has served two terms on OC’s Advisory Council. Our organization certainly needed the sustaining financial support from the CHS Foundation, but without the organizational mentoring offered by Mr. Nelson, Ogallala Commons would not have survived its early growing pains, nor turned the corner to reach the achievements attained in recent years.