Kristen Beall Barnes

Kristen Beall Barnes

Over the past three years, Kern Community Foundation has continued to build Give Big Kern, a 24-hour online crowdfunding event that aims to engage as many donors and volunteers as possible throughout Kern County in the spirit of community philanthropy.

Traditionally occurring on the first Tuesday in May, Give Big Kern encourages the community to give dollars, pledge volunteer hours and learn more about the amazing nonprofit organizations working tirelessly to make our community a better place.

As part of the Nonprofit Strengthening Initiative of Kern Community Foundation, Give Big Kern is provided at no cost to registered nonprofits and provides a whole host of amazing benefits like a customizable donation portal on, an opportunity to raise unrestricted operating dollars and recruit committed volunteers, and a variety of tools and training opportunities for the four months leading up to Give Big Kern. Many of these training opportunities help organizations build capacity by exposing them to effective principals of marketing, social media, online fundraising, board/volunteer/supporter engagement, and donor cultivation and follow-up.

An excellent example of one such training opportunity is a unique and generous partnership with California State University, Bakersfield, assistant professor of communications Kyung Jung Han and public relations students (60 students total).

Over the course of two months, from March 1 through Give Big Kern, May 1, students will assist participating Give Big Kern nonprofits with communications and public relations support at no cost. Not surprisingly, nonprofit organizations, which often operate on a shoestring budget, welcome this assistance and the opportunity to learn new skills in the process.

Kern Community Foundation’s partnership with Han originated in 2017 and proved to be very beneficial to the select group of nonprofit organizations that piloted the program. In fact, in our 2017 Give Big Kern Report to the Community, data reveals that nonprofits partnering with CSUB students engaged more donors and volunteers, raised more dollars and received more pledged volunteer hours than those that did not.

Looking to continue this wonderful synergy in 2018, Kern Community Foundation asked interested nonprofits to complete a needs assessment during one of many Give Big Kern Orientation Workshops that took place in Bakersfield and Ridgecrest in January and February. Nonprofits could request assistance with social media marketing (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn), graphic design and flyer/brochure layout, media relations including press release writing and community calendar postings, and event planning and execution. Completed assessments were then turned over to Han for her to make assignments, matching her students’ strengths to nonprofits’ needs.

In the spirit of true partnership, Han’s students benefit as well. Their assistance to nonprofits during Give Big Kern allow them to apply their book learning to real-world situations as part of their class grade. Additionally, they learn more about the value of community philanthropy through a real-life fundraising and community outreach situation.

Our partnership with CSUB illustrates the power of community engagement – building the capacity of worthy nonprofit organizations while supporting Give Big Kern. 

Kristen Beall Barnes, Ed.D., is the president and CEO at Kern Community Foundation. Contact her at or 616-2601. The views expressed in this column are her own.

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