Dec. 8, 2014Vol. 45, Issue 3

RCE Wins National Marketing Award

Members of an iPad users group get some practice on their tablets during an Oct. 27 OLLI class at Craig Hall in Chico.

Members of an iPad users group get some practice on their tablets during an Oct. 27 OLLI class at Craig Hall in Chico.

The Center for Regional and Continuing Education (RCE) recently received an award for its efforts to boost membership and fundraising for the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at CSU, Chico.

RCE, which coordinates marketing efforts for OLLI, received a silver award in the University Professional and Continuing Education Association’s (UPCEA) 2014 Marketing Awards for OLLI’s 2013–14 Membership and Fundraising Plan. The award was announced at UPCEA’s annual marketing and enrollment seminar Nov. 6 in Atlanta, Georgia.

The UPCEA’s marketing awards program recognizes top marketing and creative work across its 400 members nationwide. CSU, Chico’s RCE was recognized in the Strategic Recruitment Marketing Plan category and tied for silver with Columbia University’s School of Continuing Education.

OLLI offers educational and arts programming to people 50 and older in Chico, Paradise, Oroville, and Willows. Its “OLLI Chico Challenge” membership and fundraising plan—the first of its kind in the organization’s 25-year history—called for raising a minimum of $15,000 from at least 10 percent of the membership and exceeding its annual membership target of 1,000 dues-paying members.

“The primary campaign strategy to build membership and raise funds was grassroots outreach and promotion by OLLI’s members,” said Melissa McGowan, marketing director for RCE and OLLI. “OLLI’s monumental efforts resulted in absolute success in achieving our primary goals, as well as a number of additional positive outcomes.”

Results far exceeded OLLI’s goals: Nearly $22,000 was raised among a quarter of the membership, and members reached 1,385, an increase of 351 members over the prior year. There were more markers of success: Membership revenue increased 42 percent, 56 classes were added for a total of 172 for the academic year, the number of volunteer peer leaders (instructors) doubled from 67 to 135, and an official summer session was added.

As a result of achieving its goals, OLLI will be considered for a $1 million endowment from its parent organization, The Bernard Osher Foundation in San Francisco. If granted, the award would be the second of its kind received by OLLI at CSU, Chico from the foundation.

“OLLI’s monumental efforts resulted in absolute success in achieving our primary goals.” – Melissa McGowan, Marketing Director, RCE

“The challenge nature of the campaign triggered a spark within the organization and among OLLI members that fueled the largest increase in volunteer participation in the history of the organization,” said OLLI program director Ann Nikolai. “With just one full-time staff member and an extremely limited budget, this surge in member participation was key to the successful implementation of our plan and achieving its goals.”

OLLI is one of 118 lifelong learning institutes across the nation supported by the Osher Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to improving quality of life through support for higher education and the arts. In 2007, CSU, Chico’s learning-in-retirement program, Prime Timers, accepted a $1 million endowment from Osher to become part of its extended network of OLLI institutes.

“This has always been a goal of the institute, as far back as its Prime Timers years,” said Nikolai. “Implementing a successful, robust annual campaign, however, required a major effort on the part of many people over a short period of time. Our success reflects the commitment our members have made to continued education and to making this kind of unique resource affordably available to so many.”

OLLI’s 2014–15 fundraising campaign, “Creating a Brighter OLLI,” is underway and focuses on improving the overall classroom experience. Funds raised last year are being used to replace outdated classroom technology and assist members with annual fees, among other priorities, said Nikolai.

While a decision about a second endowment has not yet been made, the results of the campaign are seen as a huge success by OLLI members, the University, and the Osher Foundation and have re-energized the organization, McGowan said.

OLLI offers more than 85 classes per term led by CSU, Chico faculty emeriti and community volunteers. Classes are held on campus and in locations around the North State. Learn more about its offerings online.

UPCEA represents 400 institutions of professional, continuing and online education and works to build greater awareness of the link between adult learners and public policy issues.

Sarah Langford, Public Affairs and Publications



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