There’s a new sense of optimism this year for the Combined Federal Campaign, which kicked off its 54th year Sept. 3 as an annual workplace fundraiser.
Maybe it was CIA Director John Brennan, this year’s honorary national chairman of the CFC, who emphasized the importance of leadership during his speech at the 2015 campaign leadership training event in Washington.
“Frankly came as a bit of a surprise that the CIA director would be asked, because the CIA is not one who typically springs to mind when people think about charitable giving,” Brennan joked.
It was the first time in a few years that an honorary national chairman came to the CFC kickoff event to rally loaned executives and other agency and department volunteers. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was the national honorary chairwoman in 2010.
Brennan said he has plans for gathering support and enthusiasm among his employees at the CIA and told volunteers to do the same at their agencies.
“I encourage you to engage the senior leadership at your departments and agencies and ask them to get involved,” Brennan said. “I’ll be reaching out to each one of them as well to make the same case. I communicate on a regular basis with my workforce, sending emails out to them, letting them know about the opportunities to contribute.”
The emphasis on communication and leadership couldn’t come at a better time.
Employees have donated less money over the past few years, with sequestration and the 2013 government shutdown taking a big toll. Between 2009 and 2012, Washington-area employees contributed about $60 million a year to the CFC. But in 2013, donations dropped to $51.2 million.
CFC National Capital Chairman Vince Micone said the National Capital Region donated about $49.5 million in 2014, another slight drop. This year, he said, the goal is to raise about $50 million.
“The rebound is happening,” Micone told Federal News Radio. “The numbers described it today, the enthusiasm we saw at this event today as we’re kicking off, really reflect the enthusiasm we’re seeing with agencies. Which is why we’re going to push very hard this year to bounce back in the campaign from the last couple of years.”
This year’s theme for the Combined Federal Campaign is “make it possible.”
Marketing images for the campaign this year are all made up of smaller photos of federal employees who contribute to the CFC.
The CFC also is perfecting its universal giving concept, which it introduced last year. It lets federal employees in the national capital region pick and choose from 20,000 different charities accepted in any campaign around the country.
“If there’s an organization that may work in someone’s hometown with their mother or father in providing elder care services and that organization is part of the CFC, they can now give to that organization,” Micone said.
Micone said the CFC will continue to push to social media outlets to encourage employees to donate.
At the agency level, Daniel Dodgen, a loaned executive from the Department of Health and Human Services, said his agency will continue its annual chili cookoff and other book and bake sales to help raise money and awareness for the CFC. But for his part, he also plans to meet with individual employees and hear about any donation obstacles they’re experiencing and what might make it easier for them to give.
“Obviously, our country went through some tough times a couple years ago, and people were a little bit more concerned about finances and other things,” he said. “I think there is more optimism and hopefully that will carry over to the campaign.”
Even though morale has been low throughout the federal workforce over the past several years, Micone said the CFC is ready no matter what happens with the federal budget.
“What we are doing is we’re starting earlier and we’re rolling out hard. Like all federal employees, we don’t anticipate that anything will happen this fall,” he said. “We’ll have a smooth budget cycle as we move into the next fiscal year. But we’re ready to go with the CFC and we know that the services that are provided by those organizations in the campaign matter no matter what happens with the federal budget cycle.”