National capital area CFC leaning on social media to reset after tough 2013

The 2014 Combined Federal Campaign is taking a page from the widely-popular ALS ice bucket challenge. The CFC formally kicked off Thursday with plans to more aggressively use social media to reach a new generation of donors.

Vincent Micone, the chairman of the CFC for the national capital region, said the fundraising effort is entering into a bit of a rebuilding year and hopes to attract a new generation of donors.

“Last year was really tough with the government closure and with furloughs. It really hit employees hard. This year, we don’t face any of those circumstances, fortunately, so we are really looking to reinvigorate the campaign,” Micone said in an interview with Federal News Radio. “With everything, employees in the national capital region still gave $51.2 million last year, so we are going to build on that base and really hit a reset button with federal employees in the region telling them about the value of the campaign and how they can give. We are encouraged so far.”

Micone said the goal is $52 million for 2014 — a conservative one compared to recent history. But with the national capital region CFC totals dropping by about $10 million in 2013, leaders of the effort wanted to create a target that was both achievable and realistic. The CFC ends Dec. 31.

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From 2009 to 2012, the CFC in the Washington, D.C., area raised about $60 million a year, so the decrease really forced the organizers to rethink how the program could work best.

Reaching employees in new ways

Micone said that reset begins with a new and improved social media campaign. He said the ice bucket challenge showed how fundraising efforts can go viral.

“I’m not sure if we will do an ice bucket challenge, but we are going to try and see what sort of things we can do that are agency reflective,” he said. “We want to do things that reflect the culture of the individual agencies where employees work, and find some new and different ways to reach out employees to talk to them about the campaign.”

The national capital region also is hosting two pilot programs for the CFC.

One is the implementation of universal giving. Traditionally, employees have about 5,000 charities to choose from under the CFC. But through universal giving, the number of charitable organizations available to feds increased to 20,000.

“This year, we are part of a pilot where employees can give to local organizations in the CFC across the country or anywhere in the world. That’s a big deal,” Micone said. “It’s all done by electronic giving, so when you go in you’ll have an opportunity to search the organizations that you are interested in giving to by name and as they pop up, you can just create your electronic pledge card that way with those organizations. Employees have a choice to give where they like to and if they’d like to.”

A second pilot for the national capital region is creating volunteer opportunities with local charities for employees. Micone said the Office of Personnel Management approved the idea to start later this fall and last into early 2015.

He said the goal is to build an ongoing relationship with the charities that lasts beyond the four-month giving campaign.

“What we are trying to do is create opportunities, and we will have a bulletin board where it’s all voluntary. Organizations and the CFC will list volunteer opportunities and federal employees can connect through the bulletin board to those organizations directly,” he said. “So this is something new. We will test out how it works this year. We want to make sure we are doing this in conjunction with the other organizations locally that are volunteer clearinghouses, but we want to build a connection.”

New regs take effect in 2015

All of these pilots and social media efforts are helping the CFC prepare for the new regulations OPM finalized earlier this earlier this year.

“The regulations will actually take effect in 2015. So right now, we are building the base that we need to do,” Micone said. “But already with the change in the regulations, we’ve seen universal giving, which is just a tremendous improvement and change. We are working closely with OPM on the way we do e-giving, which is a lot easier and more convenient for employees. So you will gradually see things push out over the next two years as we add enhancements to the campaign.”

Micone added the average donor will not see any changes. But by harnessing collective efforts and taking advantage of shared services, he said the CFC can reduce the administrative costs, thus ensuring more money goes to the charities.

“It’s our responsibility to make sure that employees understand as our theme this year is that they can help make things possible by their contributions,” Micone said. “We need to use and harness social media in unique and different ways. Even what we did last year, in social media world, that’s like 15-years-old now. We are working with the staff and our campaign teams to look at how we can message in different and more effective ways to reach out to federal employees this year and how we can build opportunities that involve our donors, not just in giving, but in the social media process itself. I want folks to crowdsource CFC. I want them understand what we do. I want them engaged. I want to hear their feedback about what we do so we can do it better, and I also want them to know that there is a group of federal employees overseeing this and team of employees from one of the charities that are going to do everything that they can to make sure that every dollar that’s contributed is going to get to every one of those charities at the least expense possible.”

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