Campaign Saves a Seat for Students in Need
Portland, Oregon is booming. The median sale price of a house skyrocketed from $254,000 at the beginning of 2010 to $417,000 by this July, while rent climbed from $998 a month in 2011 to $1,568 in July.
That means many students must drive an hour or more to one of Portland Community College’s four campuses because they can’t afford to live any closer to the fast-growing West Coast city. And 64% of the school’s 70,000 students faced food insecurity in the last six months.
Each fall, PCC faculty, staff, and retirees step in to help students stay in school by providing funds for scholarships, campus food pantries, and emergency grants through its Save a Seat campaign.
“We are trying to develop a solution to an urgent need and wrap our arms around students at all levels. It’s really unique in that it helps illustrate how staff can support students in their everyday life,” says Christina Kline, manager of donor engagement for the Portland Community College Foundation.
The most recent six-week campaign, which kicked off last October and concluded on the national Giving Tuesday after Thanksgiving, raised $103,000. The day of giving alone brought in $15,000. Not a bad return, Kline says, for the “minuscule” budget of $4,400 to create the campaign—which included posters blanketing campuses, letters, mailers, and emails. Campus presidents reached out via the college’s listserve as well. The campaign made it easy to contribute through several channels, including online and via payroll deductions.
To encourage a range of giving options, Save a Seat broke down what monthly contributions would mean to students, such as how $5 a month funds an emergency grant to a student who needs to pay a utility bill or $62 per month provides food vouchers for 150 students.
“I was personally most proud that the campaign was developed by two of our recent grads working in our office,” Kline says. “They gave light to serious issues while still being positive about how philanthropy could support students.”
One student involved with Save a Seat was a student government campus president, who “really had his finger on the pulse of what the student need was.” The other student, who was in PCC’s graphic design program, created eye-catching posters that one college vice president even kept to frame.
All this helped make PCC’s campaign a 2019 Circle of Excellence Grand Gold winner.
“The campaign tagline, ‘Save a Seat,’ brings home the sense that, by coming together as a community, we can ‘save a seat’ for a student who might otherwise have to drop out or may fail out due to unexpected expenses, food insecurity, or lack of financial support,” Circle of Excellence judges said.
About the author(s)
Barbara Ruben was a senior content creator at CASE.