BY LAURA LIERA Californian staff writer firstname.lastname@example.org
Community trust. Two words that can be an obstacle for any non-profit organization that is trying to help the community thrive in excellence.
For the past 23 years, the United Way of Kern County has organized workshops for local non-profit organizations to gain knowledge of ways they can improve to benefit the community.
This yearly conference took place Tuesday at the Bakersfield Marriott at the Convention Center.
More than 200 members of local organizations attended the conference and President of United Way of Kern County Della D. Hodson was very excited to see local organizations wanting to learn about fundraising, leadership skills, and managing a workplace, among other themes.
"Our goal at the end of the day is to make sure that everyone here today learned at least one new thing they can take and put to work," Hodson said.
Hodson understands the challenges that exist between the community and non-profit organizations. She mentioned that many non-profits get caught up in creating numerous programs that seem to have the intention of creating a change but without knowing what communities need, these programs mean nothing.
"It's about stopping and looking toward your community and engaging and listening to them in order to rebuild trust and focus," she said.
This engagement of community is a necessary element that keynote speaker Richard C. Harwood, founder and president of The Harwood Institute for Public Innovation, thinks non-profit organizations need to have in mind.
"I don't think you can be effective in helping communities move forward if you're not connected with your community," he said.
Harwood stopped in Bakersfield as part of his new "The Work of Hope" book tour and came specifically to Kern because he sees United Way and other organizations in Bakersfield heading in the right direction.
"Bakersfield, like a lot of communities around the United States, is wrestling with some important issues, whether it's homelessness or food insecurity," he said. "But United Way in Kern is bringing different partners together to help connect with the community and ultimately tackle each issue that matters."
According to Hodson, United Way has begun community conversations in which community members and United Way come together and listen.
"We really engage people in talking about thier aspirations they have for our community and they can help identify what is preventing us from coming up with a solution," she said.
To continue to provide assistance for the community, the workshops at the conference sought to show attendees the importance of having a strong, notable and motivated organization.
Alma de Lizarraga, victim advocate at Alliance Against Family Violence and Sexual Assault, said she learned useful information from the valuing and managing workplace diversity workshop.
"The importance of understanding the diversity in your workplace is very important in an organization like ours," she said. "We all need to know and respect each other's opinions in order to better serve our community."
Krystal Walker of the Bakersfield Homeless Center will take the tips she learned on fundraising to the center.
"You have to put yourself out there for fundraising but you can't be aggressive because that may provoke sponsors not to donate money to your organization," she said.
At the end of the day, it's these non-profit organizations that try their best to help the community in any way they can, Harwood said.
"The real people that make the difference are the people living in Bakersfield that get up every day and try to find solutions to these challenges," the keynote speaker said. "They are the real heroes in our society."