The Combined Federal Campaign steps it up as Christmas draws closer

The Combined Federal Campaign had a successful giving season earlier this month. Now it's trying to keep the momentum going.

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The Combined Federal Campaign had a successful giving season earlier this month. Now it’s trying to keep the momentum going. For what’s happening locally, Federal Drive host Tom Temin spoke with the chairman of the CFC for the National Capital Region, Vince Micone.

Interview transcript:

Tom Temin: And this has really been a labor of love now for several years running for you, hasn’t it?

Vince Micone: Yes, I’ve been involved with the Combined Federal Campaign in one way or another since 1991. And I’ve been chair for quite a long time. And it’s one of the most meaningful things that I can do. It allows me to not only serve the public as a government employee, but do something with my peers to impact lives in a very different way.

Tom Temin: And giving Tuesday occurred in a weird economy with a stock market, TSP going down and inflation up. What happened?

Vince Micone: Well, so we set an internal goal of 1.5 million that was a little bit less than we’ve done in prior years, because we were concerned that there are issues that families have making sure that they have enough to take care of their families and to prepare for the holidays. So we set our goal lower given what’s going on in the economy. But we were thrilled that federal employees once again, showed up and showed out by raising over $2.3 million that day in the National Capital Area alone, and throughout the week, we sort of count it, you know, as Giving Tuesday week now we raised 3.4 million, and had a huge number of volunteer hours pledged as well, a record number of volunteer hours. So we’re very happy with what happened particularly after, you know, Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, as we’re going into the end of the campaign right now, that was a good way to begin that.

Tom Temin: And pursuant to the goal of the capital region for the entire combined federal campaign season, which by the way, goes to Jan. 14.

Vince Micone: Jan. 14 is the last day you can contribute.

Tom Temin: You’re looking to raise north of 35 million. And I think the last I checked, you were at the several millions mark altogether.

Vince Micone: We’re around 14 million right now we’re tracking right along. So look, we get a lot of contributions at the end of the calendar year, folks who are interested in making their tax deductions sort of do their final look at things. And then also, frankly, the busiest two weeks of the year, the first two weeks of the new pay year, because that’s when everyone makes their payroll deduction, their final payroll deduction contribution. So we’re tagging right along. And also we’re beginning to see in person events, or as I call it, CFC retro, you know, it’s not just all virtual stuff, we had about 40 events last week, I went to a couple of myself that were in person charity fairs. And it was really wonderful having that personal connection again, with the representatives of those organizations. And so we’re seeing a lot of hybrid activity with some in-person, and it’s making a difference. It’s reconnecting people to why we do this.

Tom Temin: Yeah, cookies and eggnog will bring people out.

Vince Micone: Yep, always have and always will.

Tom Temin: And the question I had, though, was the number of participants, it looks like a few thousand are responsible for maybe 10,000 People of the 300,000 federal employees in the National Capital Region, I could be low on that number. And so do you sense a need to spread it out in terms of the population? Because one of the measures of giving campaigns of charity campaigns is the breadth of contributions and not just the total amount?

Vince Micone: Well, sure, you know, I’ll be honest with you, we’re working very hard to attract our first time donors, you know, those that may give five bucks, one time gifts and get used to the CFC, or, you know, maybe 100 over the year, those are the donors that we are working very hard to attract to the CFC is an effective way to give. And those are some of the donors that we’re not seeing right now that we’re working on at the end of the year, which is why we’re going to do a high five challenge in the next couple of weeks to really draw attention to the importance of any $1 and a slight increase in your contribution, making a difference. But we’re seeing that at CFC NCAA, and I know in charity, they’re seeing the same thing around the country. There’s just right now, I think because of the state of the economy, there are some issues with us being able to effectively reach and communicate to folks who are lower dollar donors.

Tom Temin: We’re speaking with Vince Micone, chairman of the Combined Federal Campaign for the National Capital Region. And tell us more about the high five campaign that’s kind of launching as we speak.

Vince Micone: So we’re really excited. We are, you know, again, in federal agencies, holiday parties are back people are in the office, at least a couple of days a week. I’m really excited. My team at Commerce Department, we’re having a big holiday party this Thursday and find a lot of our customers out. And one of the things we’re going to do is we’re going to ask folks to high five or high bump or whatever you do, and when you do that, ask them to consider making a $5 contribution to CFC or increasing their contribution by 5% this week and doing that to five other people that they know. So really building out some enthusiasm by using a high five approach that we have in the office and I know I’ve seen our Secretary of Commerce she’s given high fives to folks both virtually and in person to recognize and thank them for their service and something that we’re going to build upon to recognize the importance of charity, and also to thank people who have given and to get the word out.

Tom Temin: So if you high five, what do you do with the five dollar bill, then?

Vince Micone: Well, everything is electronic. So you do the high five, and then you go on your phone and make your $5 contribution that way.

Tom Temin: Right. Cash is kind of a difficult thing to handle I imagine.

Vince Micone: Yeah, we actually removed cash from the campaign a few years ago, because one thing that we found is, it was very expensive to manage cash, it was a lot easier for us to go through an electronic process. It was tough at first, because people were used to giving that way. But now folks are used to using our mobile app and text to give and other opportunities that we have to get the CFC word out and use some of those modern technologies.

Tom Temin: And what are the trends you’re seeing this year in the types of charities that people are directing their contributions to? Because it’s an enormous catalogue. And do you follow where it generally goes?

Vince Micone: Too early to tell because our numbers start running by charity in January, February, March. So we really don’t know what some of the breakouts are until then. But I will say in our area, you know, people pick a lot of the causes they care about. But obviously, I think hunger is something that people really focus on quite a bit. And also, I think there are a number of contributions, particularly as it gets colder, that focus on helping folks that are unhoused, or may need additional support, we’ve always found that those charities resonate, particularly in the winter, as people see the need.

Tom Temin: Yeah, in some cities have really visible in large homeless situations, I think Los Angeles just declared an emergency. And D.C. has its share, too, you can push it around. But that doesn’t necessarily eliminate it.

Vince Micone: Well, you know, Tom, it hits me personally. So every morning, I’d stop by and grab breakfast, or I’m going into work. And there’s a gentleman there, who, you know, I noticed earlier this week, and I see him every day, always give him the change after I get breakfast, but I noticed that he had tennis shoes on and it was a very cold day. And so I’m doing something to help them personally. And everyone can make a difference personally, but through CFC, you can just magnify the impact. In my view, no one in D.C. should go to sleep hungry, no one should go to sleep without warm shoes nearby. And no one should be wandering the streets in this weather without the ability to keep warm. I mean, that’s the minimum we can do. And when you really think about the campaign, it’s all about that. It’s helping people who need a hand or support. It’s our gift to the community. And it’s something that I think we as public servants have an even greater responsibility to do.

Tom Temin: And there are some really well run food bank type charities in the capital region, I think all of the states and counties have them and they do exemplary work in many cases. For them, there’s more efficiency and more my guess, catalytic ability that they get from cash donations, as opposed to food donations.

Vince Micone: So food donations are great, but sometimes you won’t get everything you need. Or you may get too much of one thing and a family could really use other nutritional foods. So the Combined Federal Campaign helps find and address all of those opportunities where some of the hard donations of food and other commodities don’t really meet all the needs. And people that organizations will then use that money to buy those extra commodities to really build out healthy meals for families.

Tom Temin: Because they can buy a wholesale volumes of different commodities that make up a week’s groceries. And they can make, you know, 500 boxes of it as opposed to the sort of that that might just come in. This one gives a can of red beans, that one gives a can of tomato sauce.

Vince Micone: Well, and you know, so there’s a food cleaning operation in the neighborhood where I live, and they get commodity donations, they buy some stuff, they also pre-cook some stuff for people who are elderly or may not have the capability to do that are families where parents are working and they just need to get home and you know, they’re trying to help ends meet. And so this food lien organization actually helps prepare or semi prepare meals so that they’re also ready, help kids that night and put food on the table that very night. So cash is very important. And donating things and items is also very important. But the cash allows the wraparound and make sure that you have the most impact with those contributions.

Tom Temin: All right, so a month to go left on the Combined Federal Campaign. So the main message is come on, sign up. If you haven’t.

Vince Micone: That is exactly it. There’s still plenty of time, every gift matters. Use this time to high five your colleagues ask them to get the word out high five others increase your contribution by 5%. If you’re new, perhaps consider a $5 per week contribution through payroll deduction, or frankly, just go on our mobile app and give $5 to your favorite cause. Every dollar makes a huge difference.

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