Federal giving sees a boost during the pandemic

Early numbers for the 2020 Combined Federal Campaign season indicate that federal employees have been motivated to give even more to charity during the pandemic than in years prior.

As of Dec. 2, federal employees had contributed $30.6 million to the participating charities this year. For the CFC of the National Capital Area, which represents employees working in and around Washington, D.C., contributions stand at around $15 million, which tracks ahead of 2019 contributions by 15 percent.

According to CFCNA Local Federal Coordinating Committee Chair Vince Micone, that number represents about 50 percent of his region’s goal for this year.

Although the CFC solicitation period, which runs from Sept. 21 to Jan. 15 this year, is more than halfway over, reaching half of the fundraising goal at this point in the campaign is significant, as donations tend to see a notable uptick in the last four to six weeks of the campaign.

“Like any charitable giving campaign, the end of the fiscal year is a big time for contributions. People are in the holiday spirit, they’re looking to get a gift for their community organizations as they get gifts for family and friends,” Micone told Federal Times, adding that people also have tax deductible donations at the top of their minds during this time.

Giving Tuesday, which occurs on the first Tuesday after Thanksgiving and encourages all Americans to donate to charitable causes, also marked a strong day of donations for CFC this year, with the whole campaign raising over $3.7 million and CFCNA raising $1.8 million, up 38 percent from last year.

“This campaign has exceeded any of our wildest expectations on how well that it’s gone this year. We were a little bit nervous, because we were moving the campaign pretty much solely into a virtual space, which we’d never done before,” said Micone.

Those virtual activities included online kickoff and fundraising events, as well as a greater social media push.

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“We’re talking about CFC in the same forums where people are keeping up with family and friends. People have just really responded to how we switched up how we’ve managed the campaign,” said Micone, noting that the CFC kickoff event received 10,000 impressions, when the in-person event is usually lucky to get 500 attendees.

“We think that the future of the campaign is going to include a lot of virtual activities.”

On social media, CFCNA promoted the “lemon face challenge,” which encouraged donors to take a video of themselves biting into a lemon and making a “face of change” while pledging to donate through the CFC giving mobile app.

On top of the financial measures, that virtual focus has also yielded success in encouraging a wider range of employees and retirees to contribute, as Micone said that 25 percent of donors so far have been new to the campaign.

And though much is different about the way CFC has been run this year, the honorary chair for the 2020 campaign has remained the same, as Peace Corps Director Jody Olsen has taken up her third consecutive year at the head of CFC.

“I personally think there’s great value in having an honorary chair around for several cycles, because it really helps them to build a greater understanding of what we’re doing and allows them to be greater advocates among government leadership ranks on why this is so important,” said Micone.

“Dr. Olsen is just an amazing leader and having the opportunity to work with her for several years has just been fantastic. She has been a great advocate going to several agencies, talking about CFC to various employee groups.”

Boosts to employee giving this year could help turn around what has been a steady decline in CFC contributions over the last several years. The 2009 campaign, for example, raised a record $283 million, while the 2019 campaign a decade later raised $86.4 million.

“Because of the nature of what we do as public servants, we understand that there’s great need out there right now. We see it every day: the pandemic has just turned people’s lives upside down. So federal employees are responding by giving through the CFC,” said Micone.

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Jessie Bur covers federal IT and management.

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