Kern Community Foundation was created as a liaison between local philanthropists and nonprofits.
In its 20th year of serving Kern County, the foundation is made up of a patchwork of funds established by individuals, families, corporations and agencies who want to give back to their community, explained Kristen Beall, president and CEO.
“Our foundation establishes a fund and that person gets to direct how that money is spent within the next one to five years,” said Beall.
While there are 800 community foundations across the country, each has a different set of initiatives based on the needs of their particular community. One big focus in Kern County is secondary education, because 1 in 4 people live below the poverty line. By raising education attainment, the number of people living in poverty is reduced.
The foundation accomplishes this goal in two ways; one is a very robust scholarship program. They streamline the application process by providing one application for two dozen scholarships.
“In 2018, we awarded $600,000 in scholarships to just over 300 students,” said Beall.
The scholarships are coupled with mentoring to ensure recipients have the support they need to complete college.
“We follow them all the way through,” added Beall, noting that 70 percent of recipients are the first in their family to go to college.
The second way the foundation encourages continued education is under the umbrella of the Kern Pledge initiative, which brings together all levels of education in Kern County to work collectively on specific education goals.
KCF also oversees Give Big Kern, a national day of giving, that takes place the first Tuesday in May each year.
“It’s a crowdfunding platform that we provide to nonprofits at no cost,” said Beall. “They can raise as much money as they want and the money goes directly to (them). We don’t make any money off of this. Almost a quarter-million dollars was raised last year. Our goal is to provide as many resources to nonprofit organizations (as we can) so they can really focus on why they started it to begin with.
“It’s been exciting that in the past few years we have been recognized as a very active grant-maker within the community. Over the last 20 years, we’ve granted out $20 million (and) we’ve still got $22 million. (That’s) a reflection of the giving spirit of Kern County.”