Each August, as many as 1,200 people descend on the campus of Columbus State Community College (CSCC), in Columbus, Ohio, to sample gourmet food, sip local beer and listen to live music. For $100 each, guests can stroll and taste food prepared by more than 50 local restaurants, chefs and other culinary experts. This year’s event featured six stations at which food-carving artists created unique designs from melons, pumpkins and other produce.
The event, Taste the Future, raised $185,000 for the Columbus State Foundation to support student success, workforce development and civic engagement — the school’s core values, says Pam Bishop, executive director of the foundation. “The foundation funds scholarships and programs that benefit Columbus State students, faculty and the community.”
Here are some examples of the foundation’s work:
- First Generation Scholarship: Up to $20,000 in $500–$1,000 scholarships is awarded annually to students who are the first in their families to attend college.
- The Foundation Support Fund: This is unrestricted money for student emergencies or high-priority college projects. This year, Bishop says, the fund will provide up to $20,000 to fill “unmet tuition gaps for prequalified students” so that they can make up the difference between tuition and financial aid and not be forced to take on debt or drop out.
- Credits Count: This is an initiative to build educational pathways to college and careers in STEM fields for students attending five high schools in the Columbus City School District. “The Columbus State Foundation secured $5 million from the American Electric Power Foundation to develop and pilot Credits Count,” Bishop says.
To date, Taste the Future has raised more than $1 million; almost half of that was raised in the past three years, says Julie Barry, major gift officer for the foundation.
Sponsorships are key
Sponsors at a few different contribution levels account for the largest portion of donations. These individual sponsors and large companies receive tickets to distribute to employees and guests.
“We provide an opportunity for them to learn a bit about the college, and we follow up, send them information and ask for a gift a little while after the event,” Barry says. “People who’ve never walked on our campus before see how special we are.”
Focus on students, past and present
Student ambassadors are invited to Taste the Future to talk about the effect the college has had on their lives. Prior to the main event, sponsors, foundation board members, college trustees, host committee members and student ambassadors are invited to a VIP party. There, CSCC alumni who have gone on to successful careers are recognized for their accomplishments.
This year, three chefs were honored. This “gave them opportunities to talk about their experiences at CSCC,” Bishop says. “It’s connecting the event to our alumni, not just locally but all over the world.”
A combined fundraising effort
A fundraiser of this magnitude requires more than just the five foundation staff members. Faculty members and facilities and security staff are all hard at work as the big day approaches. Up to 100 volunteers help at the event. “You really need to have strong planning and great people skills,” Barry says.
“What makes it special is people on this campus own this event and take it personally,” she adds. “They want more than anything to do it right, because they want the people coming to our campus to have the best possible experience.”
Photo credit: CSCC, Taste the Future