CSU, Chico News

Lifelong Learning Institute's Marketing Efforts Receive National Recognition

Date: 11-18-2014

Sarah Langford
Public Affairs
Melissa McGowan, Marketing Director
Center for Regional and Continuing Education

The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at California State University, Chico has received national recognition for its recent efforts to boost membership and fundraising.

The Center for Regional and Continuing Education (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 its 2013-14 Membership and Fundraising Plan. The award was announced at UPCEA’s annual marketing and enrollment seminar Nov. 6 in Atlanta, Georgia.

OLLI offers educational and arts programming to people 50 and older in Chico, Paradise, Oroville and Willows. Its 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 increasing annual membership to 1,000.

Results far exceeded OLLI’s goals: Nearly $22,000 was raised among a quarter of the membership, and dues-paying members reached 1,069, an increase of 24 percent 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 from the organization.

“The challenge embedded in 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.”

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

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.

In early 2013, after demonstrating significant progress, the Osher Foundation invited OLLI Chico to develop a plan to increase its membership and revenue and become eligible for a second endowment. Nikolai and OLLI members, with support from Regional and Continuing Education, had six weeks to complete the plan, which aimed to expand academic programming and raise awareness about the value of lifelong learning in the North State.

“This has always been a goal of the institute, as far back as its Prime Timers years,” said Nikolai. “Getting to this next major benchmark of 1,000 members and a 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.

The Osher Foundation’s nine-member board of directors is expected to announce organizations selected to receive an endowment after its meeting later this month.

As part of the Center for Regional and Continuing Education at CSU, Chico, 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 Chico, Paradise, Oroville and Willows. More information is available at http://rce.csuchico.edu/osher.

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.


Caption: Members of an iPad users group get some practice on their tablets during a class offered through OLLI.