Networking for a Cause

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The Elite OC Jan 2020_credit Meghan Black Photography
The Elite OC’s 2020 Board of Directors at its January 2020 Annual Kick-Off Event at The Pacific Club, where attendees donated 766 articles of clothing to Working Wardrobes. | Photo by Meghan Black Photography

The Elite OC connects young professionals to one other and to a wide variety of philanthropic organizations that are making a difference in Orange County.

By Katherine Duncan

 

All professionals can benefit from networking, but what if those benefits extended beyond the individuals to help the greater community? The Elite OC, a group of young professionals giving back, was created to do just that. It provides opportunities for young businesspeople to meet one another in safe environments—without the pressures of traditional networking—while simultaneously promoting local philanthropic organizations. Since it was founded in 2010, The Elite OC has supported more than 100 local charities, including Big Brothers Big Sisters of Orange County & the Inland Empire, Newport/Mesa ProLiteracy and Friends of Newport Beach Animal Shelter.

“As tomorrow’s business leaders, … we have the responsibility of setting the standard for generations to come,” says Chris Delfs, president of The Elite OC. “We’d like to consider ourselves as an influential group of individuals with the common goals of growth and giving back, who strive to motivate and support others to succeed and become leaders themselves. Finally, we pride ourselves as being one of the most diverse nonprofit organizations in Orange County that aims at connecting young professionals across countless industries—doctors, lawyers, restaurant and retail shop owners, execs at Fortune 500 companies, entrepreneurs of all kinds, etc.—and career stages, from presidents and owners to admins and secretaries, to build meaningful relationships, while also giving back to our local community.”

Prior to the pandemic, The Elite OC hosted monthly networking events; educational events, which typically included a panel or speaker; signature events, like the CharityPalooza and Cruise for a Cause; and an annual kick-off event. These were attended by about 75 to 400 people, depending on the occasion, and provided opportunities for attendees to support The Elite OC’s monthly charity partner by bringing items to donate, making monetary donations and/or signing up to volunteer. “Our focus was on the pure act of giving—whatever the type, amount or time frame—in an attempt to inspire young professionals to become passionate about contributing to their community in their own way,” Delfs explains.

The Elite OC Aug 2019_credit Meghan Black Photography
During this The Elite OC Schmoozer in 2019, attendees donated 152 backpacks for students at Heritage Elementary School. | Photo by Meghan Black Photography

When in-person gatherings were no longer an option due to the pandemic, The Elite OC created a Give Back page on its website. There, people could give funds directly to iCare Heroes to provide frontline workers with N95 masks during the widespread shortage, and purchase their own handcrafted masks via Daisy Shoppe. For each mask bought from Daisy Shoppe, one was donated to either Family Assistance Ministries or the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Orange Coast. Second Harvest Food Bank of Orange County and Seneca Family of Agencies were also highlighted.

It also transitioned its monthly in-person events to the web. Like the in-person gatherings, the virtual events give The Elite OC’s charity partners the chance to present to the group and request support via direct donations, an Amazon wish list (in lieu of in-kind items) and/or volunteer opportunities. In August, The Elite OC celebrated its 10-year anniversary with an online fundraiser featuring 10 different charities, during which more than $300 was raised for each via a raffle. “We also organized an End of Summer Beach Clean-Up, food drive and toy drive to allow for our network to safely give back in unique and fun ways,” Delfs says.

The Elite OC plans to resume its in-person events once it is safe to do so, but for now, Delfs says that the organization is “taking things quarter by quarter.” Tentative plans for this year include a whiskey and wine tasting, a drive-in movie, a community cleanup event, a yoga/cycling class and more.

All events are hosted on the third Thursday of the month, and most are free to the public. To learn more, visit theeliteoc.com.

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