Breaking Into the OC Nonprofit Scene

30 Sep

I spent a lot of my free time in Oakland going to nonprofit fundraising events. Dinners, talks, happy hours, performances, house parties. It’s how I networked for my job, hung out with friends, had fun, learned new things, and supported people and causes I care about.

When I got to Orange County, I asked around for nonprofits I might be interested in. Most of my contacts (in Los Angeles and the Bay Area) didn’t know of any. I got a lot of, “I know there’s this one group in Santa Ana doing good work but I can’t remember the name”. So it was exciting for me to attend my first Orange County nonprofit event last night.

It was OCAPICA’s annual dinner, the Orange County Asian & Pacific Islander Community Alliance. I went because a good friend from high school works there, but they are well-known in the community and have a good reputation (and can always use more donations if you’re feeling generous).

First surprise for me was the space. It was at a clubhouse on a navy golf course, meant for military personnel, veterans, and Department of Defense employees. Now, if I’m part of a social justice nonprofit serving API communities that have been terrorized by the US military, there’s no way I’d have an event there. But I’m spoiled because Oakland has several great community spaces like the Oakland Asian Cultural Center, First Unitarian Church of Oakland, Humanist Hall, and Preservation Park. If you want to bring together 250 people in OC for a gala dinner with a nonprofit budget, you just don’t have that many options.

The other thing that threw me for a loop was the ticket price: $100 per person. But this organization is hardly alone in charging $100+ for their gala tickets; I’m told that’s the going rate here. Maybe it’s because I’m used to smaller, grassroots groups, but, man, I’ve never paid that much. I had to ask for an unpublicized discount rate (with the promise that I would donate at the event and get raffle tickets).

The last difference I noticed were the many shout-outs from the stage for UCI and Cal State Fullerton, with big cheers from the audience each time. Maybe there’s a lot more college pride here? Maybe because there were hella Asians in the room? I mean, I’m proud of being a UC Berkeley grad and I’ll indulge in a little Stanford rivalry, but I’ve never seen that happen at an event for a community nonprofit.

I only knew one person at the event aside from a few staff members and my friend’s family. It was strange to not know anyone, but one nice change is that my partner came with me and it was his first time at a nonprofit fundraising dinner.

I just got invited to a few other nonprofit fundraisers. One is a walk and festival for Family Support Network in Orange, which helps families who have children with special needs. The other is Walk Now for Autism Speaks happening at Angels Stadium in Anaheim. I’m also looking forward to the common ground open mic series at the VAALA Cultural Center in Santa Ana (Vietnamese American Arts & Letters Association). Even though these issues aren’t my top priorities, I do believe in supporting people I know in things they care about.

But I’m still looking for people of color-led, progressive groups focused on social justice in Orange County, so send them my way!


One Response to “Breaking Into the OC Nonprofit Scene”


  1. Turning Into a Real Housewife of Orange County « oakland 2 oc - February 15, 2012

    […] I started getting to know local organizations. I hadn’t done much since the one fundraising dinner I attended back in September. I checked out Common Ground, a monthly open mic hosted by the […]

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