Washington-area charity drive organizers say economy isn’t an 'excuse'

“We give because we want to give. We give because we can. We give because we ought to,” said Keith Willingham, national director of CFC operations. “We give because we want to give. We give because we can. We give because we ought to,” said Keith Willingham, national director of CFC operations. OPM file photo

More than 400 federal employees from the capital region gathered Wednesday to prepare for this year’s Combined Federal Campaign, an annual charity drive organized for workers governmentwide.

The kickoff event, held in downtown Washington, was held to educate CFC’s National Capital Area campaign leaders on the best practices for raising money from colleagues and supervisors. CFCNCA collects donations from every agency represented among the region’s 350,000 federal workers.

Organizers announced a goal of $62 million and a desired participation rate of 34 percent for 2012, marking a slight decrease from 2011, when giving fell short of the preset goal.

CFC leaders said they were confident they will reach their objectives this year thanks to the ongoing generosity of federal employees.

“Federal employees give with more enthusiasm and more heart than any group I’ve ever seen,” said Keith Willingham, national director of CFC operations. “We give because we want to give. We give because we can. We give because we ought to.”

Renee Acosta, president of Global Impact, the nonprofit that oversees CFC, said the depressed economy that could have contributed to lower participation rates last year should not prevent a successful campaign this time around.

“Don’t let the tough times get in the way,” she said. “The economic crisis is not a reason or an excuse. People are closer to need.”

Campaign managers heard from Mark Bergel, executive director of A Wider Circle, a participating CFC charity that raises money to fight poverty. Bergel spoke of the importance of CFC to his organization and appealed to the audience to sympathize with local families in need.

“We work every day with children and adults, individuals and families,” he said, “people whose lives you will save.”

Global Impact officials advised local campaign leaders -- who take on their CFC duties in addition to their regular work responsibilities -- to follow Bergel’s strategy of creating an emotional connection with potential donors and emphasizing the beneficiaries when soliciting donations. They instructed the audience to leverage social media and promote electronic giving in an effort to modernize the program.

H. Brandon Haller, chairman of the Local Federal Coordinating Committee for CFCNCA, which governs the campaign at the local level, said he hopes improved operational efficiency will encourage people to donate.

“It costs money to raise money,” he said, “but our overhead is 8 percent. We’ve cut 10 percent to 12 percent from last year’s budget to ensure that even more dollars go directly to the charities.”

The inspector general at the Office of Personnel Management -- CFC’s parent agency -- criticized CFCNCA in March for more than $300,000 in questionable purchases on food, travel and other expenses. Haller said his organization has taken that message to heart.

“We’re running a lot leaner and meaner as a result of that,” he said.

The 2012 fundraising drive began Sept. 1 and will run through Dec. 15. Washington-based federal employees can go to cfcnca.org to learn more about donation opportunities.

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