We are excited to introduce Barbara Kochard, our new Associate Executive Director for Development at Community Action Lehigh Valley. Barbara, with her rich background in nonprofit work and her deep connection to the Lehigh Valley, shares her journey and vision for our agency.
A Commitment to Community
Barbara’s professional story is one of lifelong dedication to her community. From her early days in the Lehigh Valley, she has always felt a strong sense of responsibility to use her skills for the betterment of her surrounding neighborhoods. Barbara's career path was clear from the start - to work in the nonprofit sector. Her experiences in college and graduate school, from aiding individuals on the brink of homeless in Pittsburgh to engaging in community-based initiatives in Philadelphia, solidified her resolve to serve others. She mentioned, “These experiences gave me perspective into how our institutions tend to treat people who are experiencing hardships, and the various barriers that people face to get their basic needs met.”
At KenCrest, she advocated for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, a role that highlighted the need for sustained support and funding. Barbara’s diverse experiences have uniquely equipped her for her role at Community Action, bringing her back home to serve the community that raised her and showcasing the strength of community-based convening and grassroots initiatives.
Barbara states, “I am extremely grateful for all the experiences I have had in the Lehigh Valley, Philadelphia region, and Pittsburgh that have led me to Community Action, each in their own unique way with elements that have prepared me for this new role. It feels like coming home for me to be here and to do my part to help people in our community thrive. I am also excited to be a part of this organization because of its well-known stance as an advocate for systematic changes.”
Nonprofit Development: A Bridge Between Needs and Resources
Barbara views her role in nonprofit development as being an advocate, representing the needs, priorities, and dreams of those we serve. She emphasizes the importance of seeing fundraising as a means to align the organization's needs with the interests of donors. This approach, influenced by conversations with seasoned nonprofit professionals, is key to the work of the development teams at Community Action.
Challenges in Anti-Poverty Work
The biggest challenge in our work is two-fold: first, the huge, systematic challenges that seem insurmountable. This includes a range of issues from veterans facing food insecurity to homeless young families and predatory loan practices. Personal tragedies often lead to a downward spiral due to broken safety nets, especially as inflation rises and government funding decreases. The second challenge is the perception that these problems are too large to tackle. In fundraising and marketing, we often focus on individual stories rather than systemic issues, which can discourage meaningful advocacy for systemic change.
Barbara states, “This is what made me excited to join Community Action – we are not afraid of having those tough, meaningful conversations to effect real change; it’s too important to gloss over. There are not many organizations that will take on these fights. Community Action is unique because we do both – we provide the services for people based on what they need right now, but we also go further to advocate for systems change. We are basically advocating for things that would drive our programs and services out of business if we were successful.”
Our Call to Action
Barbara's message to our supporters and volunteers is clear: We need every single one of you. She believes it is time to reframe our understanding of philanthropy as more than an unattainable ideal; it's about the love of fellow man. Barbara encourages anyone wanting to get involved with our organization to consider what they can offer in terms of time, talent, or treasure to improve our community. Actions like writing to representatives, educating oneself about economic issues, volunteering, sharing advocacy on social media, and donating - no matter the size - are all valuable. Philanthropy has many forms, and we each have a responsibility to contribute in our own way. She ends with an overall message, “I look forward to meeting all of the people in our community that are joining us in our mission!”
To get in touch with Barbara, you can connect with her on LinkedIn, send her an email, or reach out to her directly at her office phone number, 484-893-1137.