The 52nd annual Combined Federal Campaign is focused less on total dollars and more on the people behind the money.
The annual workplace fundraiser kicked off Sept. 1 with a new slogan and a new approach to getting the word out.
“Today we begin in earnest the 2013 Combined Federal Campaign,” said Lou Nistler, the CFC National Capital Area’s executive director, during a kickoff event in Washington Wednesday. “2013 will be remembered as the campaign where nothing stood in front of the federal employees fulfilling their public obligation, reaching out to help the charities of choice while dealing with furloughs, sequestration and other burdens is what makes you such incredible philanthropists. There is no greater campaign then the CFC and there is no greater campaign of the CFC than the national capital area.”
The national capital area’s CFC effort is the largest in the country. Last year it raised $62 million out of more than $258 million raised and donated to more than 4,400 charities.
Nistler tried to inspire the federal employees who are leading the CFC effort to be passionate, to communicate and to spur generosity from their fellow workers.
“When you get your day started tomorrow remember the clothing you wear to work may look like normal work attire, but it’s not. It’s the red cape of a superhero tucked under your jacket or blouse. The incredible power of passionate leaders is contagious and amazing, that’s who you are,” he said. “You can inspire people to give. That donation could be a dollar that saves a forest, a park or a school. It could add food to a shelter and give aid to the sick. It could also help save a life.”
New theme, new focus
The CFC’s theme this year is simple, “I make it possible.”
Brandon Haller is the local federal coordinating committee chairperson and works for the Government Accountability Office. He said the goal of the theme is to provide recognition to the federal employees who make the CFC successful.
Haller said the theme also addresses the objective of getting more employees to give rather than a goal of just raising a certain amount of money.
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“The biggest emphasis is to make sure every federal employee has the opportunity to give,” he said. “We will focus on the ask. We will contact each federal employee in our various agencies.”
Part of the way the CFC will reach out to every federal employee is through the more than 40 loaned executives — about 10 more than last year — to help run and oversee the campaign.
Each executive is on a six-month detail from their agency and works with several others to help answer questions or offer advice to make the CFC successful.
This year will be the second go around as a loaned executive for Nikki Benns, a Veterans Affairs National Cemetery Administration employee.
Reaching out to include all employees
Benns will have 11 different agencies — most of them small — in her portfolio.
“What we try to stress is no dollar amount is too small. We know everyone’s situation is different at home or at work. We try to stress everyone needs to be involved in volunteering, but people are very willing to give,” she said.
Benns said loaned employees help train key workers and campaign coordinators. She said using a personal example of how giving to the CFC charities impacts a large section of the community.
“It is about the ask. There’s been agencies that we’ve gone to that say their participation rate is low because some employees do not get asked and do not get involved in the campaign,” she said. “They don’t think about the workers in the field and that’s something we can bring to them and say they are missing an entire group within their agency.”
Loaned executives help spur ideas to get employees involved through simple activities such as bake sales or more creative approaches.
“I’ve had one agency last year, and they do it every year, they have an art auction. So it’s photography, paintings, or art that the senior leaders donate to the campaign. It’s a silent auction and they make a great deal of money doing that,” Benns said.
Haller said the CFC realizes federal employees have been facing a tough couple of years with no pay raises since 2009, furloughs and the assorted fed-bashing on Capitol Hill.
In fact, according to the Office of Personnel Management, the CFC saw almost a $14 million drop in donations in 2012 as compared to 2011. The $258 million raised last year was the lowest since 2004.
“Last year we were concerned about that as well, but we still raised $62 million. That gave me a lot of optimism going into this year’s campaign,” Haller said referring to the amount raised in the National Capital region. “We are focusing more on the participation rate. The percentage of employees who have given has gone down a little bit. I think if we focus on the participation rate we will raise a lot of money. The average gift in this area is about $550 per employee.”
Mark Lambert, OPM’s associate director for Merit System Accountability and Compliance, told a House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee hearing in July that more than 37 percent of all donors have walked away from the CFC in the past 10 years.