Since 2008, the Omaha Community Foundation’s African American Unity Fund has put grantmaking decisions into the hands of the community.

The fund, one of the Omaha Community Foundation’s five Community Interest Funds, uses a resident-led approach to grantmaking. Each year, a committee of community members determines where the dollars can make the most impact.

“The AAUF committee is unique as it is comprised of community members who are representative of populations served,” said committee member Kimberly C. Sherrod Barnes, Executive Director at CASA for Douglas County. “We have lived experiences in some of the areas in which grants are seeking funding. Lived experiences garner unique conversations around true impact of funding and the ability to understand the benefits of programming for Black and Brown communities.”

Since its inception, the African American Unity Fund has distributed almost $3 million to support on-the-ground organizations and initiatives that benefit the community. It’s a grassroots approach to addressing local priorities, growing active citizenship, and building community.

“While we share the same race, we all have our own lived experiences,” said committee member Lachelle Rankins, Director of Strategic Partnerships at Inclusive Communities. “There are people on the community born and raised in Omaha, transplants, recent immigrants, and fourth-, fifth-, sixth-generation Americans. Because there is so much variety on the committee, we are uniquely positioned to really understand the varying needs of our shared community, grant applicants, and recipients.”

The committee members review all of the grant applications and make the final funding decisions.

The fund supports organizations and initiatives in the following areas:

  • Arts and Culture (visual arts, arts education, cultural programs)
  • Basic Human Needs (food, shelter, clothing)
  • Community Development (leadership training, neighborhood groups, youth programs)
  • Health and Wellness (medical, dental, mental or behavioral health, nutrition, physical activities)
  • Capacity Building (fundraising, technology or operating expenses)

Applications for the African American Unity Fund grants are open through March 1 and can be submitted online through the Omaha Community Foundation’s website.

Anyone can donate to the African American Unity Fund, one of our five Community Interest Funds.

Meet the AAUF 2024 Committee

  • Lachelle Rankins, Chair – Director of Strategic Partnerships at Inclusive Communities
  • Tinya Nielsen, Co-Chair – LTS Support Manager at LinkedIn
  • Akile Banister – President/CEO at Banister’s Leadership Academy
  • Kimberly C. Barnes – Executive Director at CASA for Douglas County
  • Mike Carter – Distribution Supervisor at Streck
  • Jo Giles – Executive Director at Women’s Fund of Omaha
  • Susie Owens – Director of Strategic Partnerships, MENTOR Nebraska
  • Keith Harris – Retired Captain at Omaha Police Department; Small Business Owner/Operator
  • Candias Jones – Executive Director at Girls Inc.
  • Andrea Walker – Executive Assistant at PayPal
  • Noah Strozier – VP of Property & Casualty Services
  • Brea Ross-Worthington – Operations Director, Bryant Resource Center, Inc. – A.M.E.S. Project
  • Herb Thompson

About the Omaha Community Foundation

The Omaha Community Foundation (OCF) uses both established philanthropic strategies and innovative programs to address our area’s social and economic needs. By mindfully connecting donors to local nonprofits and helping direct resources to areas that will strengthen our community, the Omaha Community Foundation has positively impacted thousands of organizations.

In 2023, OCF distributed more than $280 million in grants to more than 3,150 nonprofits. OCF manages $1.6 billion in assets and has granted more than $2 billion since its formation in 1982.

Learn more at

Pictured: House of Afros, Capes & Curls, a 2023 African American Unity Fund grant recipient