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With a compass as part of its logo, Nonprofit Empowerment Center guides local charities toward resiliency

Louis Medina KBJ

Louis Medina, director of Community Impact for Kern Community Foundation, sports a face mask featuring the Foundation’s Nonprofit Empower Center logo as he shows off the landing page of this new online resource hub for local nonprofits.

One meaning of the word empowerment, “to promote self-actualization,” is the essence behind the proverb, “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach him to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.”

Afforded such wherewithal, he can build upon it and learn to fish in challenging conditions such as deep waters, stormy weather or during times of scarcity. His sustainability — his survival — is thus safeguarded.

That same spirit drives Kern Community Foundation’s newest endeavor under its Nonprofit Strengthening Initiative: the introduction of an online Nonprofit Empowerment Center (NEC) that now forms part of our website and can be easily accessed at kernfoundation.org/empowerment.

The journey here

For the better part of a decade, the Foundation has worked on improving the visibility, capacity and sustainability of Kern County’s nonprofits through grantmaking, training, networking, advocacy and such fundraising-focused efforts as our online day of giving, Give Big Kern, and our Jumpstart Fundraising Technical Assistance competitive grant program.

Beginning in 2019, however, philanthropic organizations in California began talking about resiliency, defined as “the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties,” as another important strength to build up within the nonprofit sector in light of recent disastrous events that included devastating wildfires, mass shootings and, closer to home, the East Kern earthquakes — because, in such times of great need, nonprofits are invariably called upon to deliver more aid to hurting communities even as they themselves struggle to ensure their own sustainability.

Little did we — and other members of the League of California Community Foundations (LCCF) — know that within a year of beginning to think proactively about resiliency, we would be called upon to assist in ensuring the resiliency of the nonprofit sector in the midst of the prolonged COVID-19 pandemic.

“Now more than ever, nonprofit organizations need to think strategically about surviving during challenging times,” said KCF President and CEO Kristen Beall Watson. “It's simply not enough to think that the status quo will sustain critical community programs; nor can we look to generous donors or grants to continuously fill the gaps. Instead, seeking out resources to build stronger and more resilient organizations is key to moving forward.”

Friends along the way

Thanks to a number of people and organizations that, metaphorically, have taught us to fish, we have, through the Nonprofit Empowerment Center, developed a robust web-based toolkit that includes:

  • COVID-19 resources
  • Leadership training opportunities
  • Suggested aids and workshops for the effective implementation of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) practices, as well as a list of local agencies involved in DEI work
  • A Nonprofit Strengthening Events Calendar featuring online educational and training opportunities
  • Links to funding resources
  • Exclusively for nonprofits that are registered with Kern Community Foundation, access to Candid’s Foundation Directory Online (FDO), an exhaustive database for grant searches that boasts the profiles of more than 166,000 foundations, corporate giving programs, and grantmaking public charities. By becoming an FDO host, KCF is now officially a part of Candid’s Funding Information Network of more than 400 libraries, community foundations and other nonprofit centers that are helping nonprofit leaders become better seekers of grants and other fundraising resources.

Funding for this effort was made possible through a COVID-19 nonprofit relief grant from the city of Bakersfield.

The Community Foundation for Monterey County, an LCCF partner that already had in place its own web-based Center for Nonprofit Excellence, provided guidance and resources that kept us from having to reinvent the wheel.

The design of the NEC logo and the engineering of this section within our website were done by Bakersfield graphic and web designer Alan Urquhart, who is also the designer of kernfoundation.org.

Finally, much of the research for and content building of the Nonprofit Empowerment Center at Kern Community Foundation was done by intern Autumn Warren, a 2017 Centennial High School graduate and former KCF scholarship recipient, who is now a Stanford University senior student majoring in computer science.

The journey forward

“The Nonprofit Empowerment Center at Kern Community Foundation is designed to provide resources for nonprofits of all shapes and sizes,” Beall Watson said. “It is specifically intended to adapt and respond to the nonprofit sector's changing needs while also serving as a trusted resource for information on such topics as general operations, leadership training, fundraising, networking, and more.”

Most NEC resources are available to the general public and, thanks to our partnership with Candid — an information service organization specializing in the nonprofit and philanthropic sectors, and whose vision is “a social sector capable of tackling the critical challenges and opportunities of our time” — many Candid online workshops posted on our Nonprofit Strengthening Events Calendar are free.

Use of the Foundation Directory Online, however, is reserved for local nonprofits that are registered with Kern Community Foundation and maintain a Silver or higher transparency rating on GuideStar.org, the largest database of information on nonprofits. Registration with the Foundation is free. Nonprofits can inquire about how to register with us by writing to info@kernfoundation.org.

Local nonprofits are encouraged to visit the Nonprofit Strengthening Events Calendar at kernfoundation.org/empowerment to sign up for an hour-long introductory webinar customized for Kern on how to use the FDO that will be offered at 10 a.m. March 18.

Louis Medina serves as director of Community Impact at Kern Community Foundation. He may be reached at Louis@kernfoundation.org.

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