Charitable giving touted as a way to improve feds’ image

OPM director says the Combined Federal Campaign has the potential to showcase the generosity of civil servants.

As the 2009 Combined Federal Campaign kicks into gear this month, the government's top personnel official is urging agencies to consider the charity fundraising drive as a way to improve the image of government workers and boost recruitment and retention.

"We need to show the American people who federal workers really are," Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry wrote in a Sept. 18 memorandum to federal chief human capital officers.

Noting that civil servants for decades have been "denigrated and maligned," Berry said the CFC was a chance for them to demonstrate their generosity, and challenged them to beat past donation records. "I've always said that feds are big-hearted people," he wrote. "The CFC is perhaps the best demonstration of this. Giving is its own reward, and that's why federal workers do it."

President John F. Kennedy created the Combined Federal Campaign in 1961 as a way to pool solicitations to employees, and it has become the largest workplace charity drive nationwide. In 2008, the campaign garnered a record-breaking $276 million from 1.1 million donors, despite the recession. CFC officials said low administrative costs and the ability to spread donations throughout the year with payroll deductions make the drive an attractive way to give to organizations in need.

Mark Lambert, director of the Office of Combined Federal Campaign operations at OPM, said he hoped the movement could bring in at least as much money this year as it did in 2008.

"I'm cautiously optimistic this year that federal employees will donate the same amount they did last year," Lambert said. "We're pretty fortunate that we have job stability, and if [federal employees] can find it in their hearts to give to those who need it, the CFC is a great way to do that."

Laura Neuman-Howe, deputy director of Earthshare, which administers the campaign in St. Louis, Mo., also said she was hoping donors could match what they gave last year. "I'm continually impressed by federal employees and their generosity," she said.

Berry reminded CHCOs to encourage employees outside of the Beltway to donate through their regional campaign, rather than the Capital Area drive. According to the memo, some agencies have tried to organize a national campaign from their Washington headquarters encompassing all their offices, even though the CFC is divided by region.

The campaign officially began on Sept. 1, but different regions and agencies have their own beginning and ending dates. More information about the campaign is available on OPM's Web site.