Connecting Dots: Special Initiatives at the Orange County Community Foundation

Veterans are on one focus of the occf's work. 

Veterans are on one focus of the occf's work. 

Based in Newport Beach, California, the Orange County Community Foundation (OCCF) has been on the local grantmaking scene for nearly 30 years. But in addition to the funder’s standard giving areas that see annual support, OCCF has some separate initiatives targeted toward certain population groups in Southern California.

One initiative that has been getting a lot of attention lately is called Accelerate Change Together, or ACT Anaheim. Back in 2013, the Disneyland Resort, Angels Baseball, and the Anaheim Ducks came together to launch a youth initiative and have OCCF serve as its managing partner. The goal is to address service gaps for at-risk youth between the ages of 13 and 18 and living in Anaheim. Grants from this initiative typically fund youth programs that address poverty, academic challenges and limited opportunities in the region.

Recently, OCCF announced over $750,000 in grants to 12 organizations as part of this initiative. But the more interesting news is that ACT Anaheim will be creating a collaborative strategy fund with at least $50,000 in new money to support new funder engagement, grant proposals and collective evaluation. This is a quickly growing collaborative with 22 funders on board, which has already awarded $6.8 million. 

However, this isn’t the only special initiative that OCCF is involved with right now. The OC Veterans Initiative addresses the needs of local veterans who return home from service and need help transitioning back to civilian life in Orange County. Funding typically backs the employment, stable housing, and economic security of veterans. This initiative was launched in 2011 and expanded in 2015 based on a study that highlighted the challenges of local veterans. Earlier this year, OCCF raised $750,000 to benefit more than 130,000 Orange County veterans at the third annual Orange County Real Estate Luncheon, and those funds were distributed to the foundation's nonprofit partners.

A third OCCF initiative that we’ll highlight here is called the OC Opportunity Initiative, which is focused on immigrants in the region. Immigrants make up about one-third of Orange County’s population, so this is a big local cause. Unlike many parts of the country, approximately 79 percent of these immigrants have been living here for at least three decades. But OCCF’s position is that just because most of the immigrants here aren’t new to this country doesn’t mean that they don’t still need the support of the local philanthropy sector. There hasn’t been as much news from this initiative lately, but it did provide funding of between $5,000 and $70,000 to 18 nonprofits a couple years ago. The groups receiving support are ones that provide education, outreach and legal services for immigrants in Orange County. This is also a collaborative funder effort that involves local and regional grantmakers like the Opus Community Foundation, the California Endowment, the PIMCO Foundation, the Weingart Foundation, and others.

Aside from these three initiatives, the bulk of available OCCF grants are in the categories of arts and culture, education, environment and animal welfare, health and wellness, and human services. The first step to applying for OCCF support is to complete a Nonprofit Central profile.