California Community College Gets Creative With Fundraising

By Dennis Pierce

Orange Coast College boosts budget with donations and swap meets.

Orange Coast College (OCC) in Costa Mesa, California, has a few innovative programs that bring in up to $5 million per year in ancillary funding for the 23,000-student community college.

The swap meet

For several years, the OCC Foundation has run a weekend swap meet out of one of the school’s largest parking lots, says Juan Gutierrez, director of marketing and public relations for the college.

“In the bursar’s office, we sell slots to vendors at a fixed price based on how much space they rent,” Gutierrez says. “We don’t charge for admission or parking; we just make our money from selling these slots to the vendors. We probably bring in just under $2 million a year on the swap meet alone.”

Boat donations

OCC, located near Newport Beach, has a sailing center that offers amateur and professional mariner programs. “Because of our location and the fact that we have a sailing school, we get a lot of donations of boats — yachts from companies and individuals who want the tax write-off,” Gutierrez says.

OCC converts the donated watercraft into labs for its professional mariner program, or it charters or sells the boats after the mandatory waiting period.

“That brings in some additional revenue, and it’s pretty unique,” he says. “Not many colleges can do that. We benefit from our location and from having close ties to the community.”

The recycling center

In addition, OCC students operate one of the few recycling centers in the city. “People bring in aluminum cans, paper or whatever is recyclable. They get paid a certain rate, and then we resell the material to large resellers — and that’s how we make money,” Gutierrez says.

Some people come by and just donate their recyclable material, he adds; they don’t want any money for it. Others “use the service to make a little extra income — and the school makes some income as well.”

OCC’s operating budget is just over $100 million, Gutierrez says. “When you supplement that by up to $5 million in a good year for donations, you’re looking at nearly 5 percent of your budget.” The money is used for scholarships and to support student experiences such as lab equipment, field trips and club activities.

“Each year, the foundation funds certain resources that our academic departments wouldn’t be able to get from their budgets,” he says. “This ancillary money really helps out — and the students are able to benefit.”

Create your own fundraising

Gutierrez has some advice for other colleges that are looking to get creative with their own fundraising efforts:

“Look at what you do well first, and your location and the support that you have from the community. From there, you’ll be able to derive creative ways to enhance your revenue.

“OCC’s location next to Newport Beach, and the fact that it has a sailing center and a well-established brand, really helps us out when we’re trying to get donations from (yacht owners). And the recycling center fills another niche that the community needs but is also beneficial to the college.”

Dennis Pierce

is a contributor to the 21st-Century Center.

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