BFF Omaha (formerly Benson First Friday) is an arts and culture organization that hosts art exhibitions, music events, and is an all-around promoter of the arts in the Benson neighborhood.
BFF Omaha’s Development Director, Caitlin Little, is enthusiastic about Omaha Gives and has rallied her team around creative ways to celebrate and promote the day. They’ve done a great job engaging and entertaining their audiences both young and old. “What we do best is playing and creating something out of nothing,” Caitlin says. “We can do a whole program with ten bucks.”
“What we do best is playing and creating something out of nothing. We can do a whole program with ten bucks.”
The organization capitalizes on the giving day as one of its few days they get loud about fundraising. “A lot of other organizations solicit donations throughout the whole year, but this is the one time where we are actively asking people to give. So Omaha Gives is a really big day for us,” Caitlin says. They use the day to invite people to become members of BFF Omaha and to thank their volunteers. “We are 80% volunteer-run, so it’s cool to have a chance to say thank you. It’s a time to have a good time together, create a culture of gratitude, and brag a little about what we did during the year. It’s really celebratory.”
Playfulness is one of BFF Omaha’s values and it’s the spirit they bring to Omaha Gives. “It’s important to do things that are fun, entertaining, and enjoyable—what else are we on this planet for?” Caitlin says. “Make giving fun and engaging—it’s going to help our future.”
The new minimum donation of just $1 is something the organization will capitalize on this year. “I think it opens up the mindset for people, especially young people who want to give,” says Caitlin. “If they can give five bucks—it’s so empowering. We want people to feel included and this [$1 minimum donation option] helps. All our programming is free because we want it to be accessible to everyone. And we want everyone to be encouraged and empowered to give, too. We’re really excited to be a part of teaching younger folks to give.”
“If they can give five bucks—it’s so empowering. We want people to feel included and this [$1 minimum donation option] helps….We’re really excited to be a part of teaching younger folks to give.”
For the last few years, they’ve done fundraising videos for Omaha Gives that feature conversations about giving between real people and puppets who live and work in Benson. Officer Benson is a jovial character that naively calls bagels “donuts” and is generous with his tip — which a local barista then donates to Omaha Gives. And Murial has become a BFF Omaha mascot in her recurring role as a “child of Benson,” as Caitlin puts it.
“Everybody loves puppets because they are like us but and their limited mobility makes them funny,” says Caitlin. “I love when puppets are interacting with people – when there is a person who is either serious or just trying to meet the puppet where they’re at, even if you don’t make any mention of it. It’s saying this is normal, this is how it is every day.”
This year, BFF Omaha will be hosting a virtual event and Caitlin anticipates that going online for this year’s event won’t deter anyone from celebrating with them. “We’ll have live music artist, stream art, and build on the excitement of what we’re doing with the FEW (a new weekly webisode they’ve already implemented during the time of quarantine).
“The great thing about puppets is they can’t get the coronavirus,”
“The great thing about puppets is they can’t get the coronavirus,” Caitlin says. Puppets have already become the “audience” at a fashion show that had to be done virtually due to COVID-19. And their webisodes have featured the puppet Chef Mark making quarantinis and giving tips for what to do with the fruit that’s about to go bad.
And like puppets, who encourage us to suspend our belief so we can engage and have fun in new ways, BFF is going to make something meaningful and, well, normal out of this year’s Omaha Gives. “Anything can be normal; reality is what you make it,” Caitlin says.