For the past five years, Kern Community Foundation has been steadfastly committed to strengthening Kern County’s nonprofit sector. We know that despite the critical role they play in making our community a better place, too many nonprofits lack the necessary reserves and resources to weather disruptions to their business model. In fact, 70 percent of California nonprofits are run entirely by volunteers, according to the California Association of Nonprofits.

Over the past few weeks, we have closely monitored the rapidly changing COVID-19 situation. We know that our nonprofits are already hard hit by the unexpected economic downturn and public health crisis.

Take a moment to consider some of the harsh realities impacting Kern County’s nonprofits:

Loss of Revenue – Nonprofit fundraisers throughout March and April have been canceled or postponed, leaving gaping holes in critical program and operating budgets.

Program Disruption - Organizations are prioritizing essential services and many fee-for-service programs will be suspended because they cannot be offered remotely or because access to clients has become restricted, creating more budgetary shortfalls.

Access to Technology – While some organizations may offer employees and volunteers the ability to work remotely, they may lack an adequate supply of laptops, access to virtual meeting technology, or the infrastructure to ensure secure connections that cannot be hacked.

Add to this list the anticipated increase in the number of at-risk clients our local nonprofits will be expected to serve: among them, low-wage hourly employees or paid-by-the-gig workers without health insurance or paid sick leave with jobs in hospitality, restaurants and entertainment.

Childcare centers, senior centers and daycare centers for the elderly and disabled, job training programs and meal delivery services rely on government contracts that pay on a reimbursement basis, only after proof of daily attendance or services rendered. All will undoubtedly face an increased demand for services without the accompanying revenue upfront.

While it is natural for us to feel deep concern for ourselves and our families and neighbors during this confusing time, we cannot allow fear to turn us away from the organizations working tirelessly to make our community a better place. We encourage you now, more than ever, to donate to local nonprofits.

If you are a community member interested in supporting Kern’s nonprofit sector, please donate directly to local organizations. If you’d like more information on local charities first, you can access Kern Community Foundation’s online Nonprofit Search engine at kernfoundation.org/nonprofitsearch.

If you would like to give but are still uncertain of which organization, consider a donation to the Kern County COVID-19 Relief Fund at Kern Community Foundation, which may be found at kernfoundation.org > Give Now > Scroll to the “Field of Interest Fund” section. This fund will provide grants to nonprofit organizations serving vulnerable populations and/or those who can present a clear case of direct impact due to the medical or economic effects of the pandemic.

With information changing hour-by-hour, there is one constant that remains steadfast: Kern County has always been and will continue to be a giving community! Let’s step up and support those organizations who need it most.

Kristen Beall Watson is president and CEO of Kern Community Foundation. You may reach her at kristen@kernfoundation.org.