Why I Do What I Do

I coordinate the Combined Federal Campaign at the Bureau of the Public Debt. I’ve done that now for the past four years and will continue into the foreseeable future. It’s not as though it carries any extra pay or extra applause … or any readily visible benefit. So if you ask me why I do it, it would be a little more complicated to articulate. And though you haven’t asked me that question, I’ll tell you what has bubbled up to the surface for me: it simply feels right.

Planning a yearly event takes a group of pretty dedicated people – there are standing activities that must happen, plus new events and attempts at awareness. With a workforce that is steadily “youthening” as the old guard heeds the lure of retirement, giving tends to drop. Not because younger employees aren’t caring or long-term employees are more caring, but for a number of complicated reasons. Partly it’s because many younger workers haven’t yet established a pattern of giving. And partly it’s because a younger workforce is often very experiential – it may be stronger at “doing for” rather than “giving to” charity. Both traits are very necessary, and both must be carefully balanced, for charities cannot operate on the “doing” alone. Service requires the gift of capital, not just sweat, although most happily welcome sweat equity.

This year’s CFC promises to be pretty weird. Mostly because we’re consolidating, but also because we haven’t seen raises for a while. Many of my co-workers are retiring, and Public Debt isn’t always backfilling. There’s angst. There’s unease. There’s the fact that we’re providing for our own upkeep with less these days – without even addressing the needs of others.

Still, the CFC is a mandated activity. The federal government is required, each Sept. 1 through Dec. 15, to conduct a campaign. And in truth, the CFC does provide a valuable service to federal workers. It allows them the luxury of choosing from a buffet of pre-screened options for giving. As the only authorized solicitation within the government, the CFC also means we don’t have to field multiple pleas from charities throughout the year – only in the fall through the CFC.

Is the CFC organization perfect? Of course not. Mistakes happen, negative publicity occurs, people can be less than ethical. Unfortunately, those kinds of things tend to unfairly brand every CFC solicitation across the country. Our CFC has impeccable history. But if you step back to look at the overall picture, what you’ll see regardless of the occasional black eye is this: the CFC does good work in helping charities help people who need it most, (and that can include you and me should we ever find ourselves in need).

Let me broaden that for you – most charities out there are legitimate and strive to help those who need it most – not just those who participate in the federal government’s CFC. There are United Way Campaigns, community fund drives, and individual fund-raising that happens every year in every community.

Here’s hoping none of us must ever seek the services of those agencies who ask for our consideration when giving time rolls around. But you never know. Ever adopted a dog or cat from the Humane Society? You’ve benefitted, then, from a charitable agency. Ever needed the help of a specialty group like the American Cancer Society, or received guidance and information from the Juvenile Diabetes Association or from a host of others? You’ve benefitted from a charitable agency.

Although it’s summer, CFC, United Way, and community fund steering committees all across the country are already busy and will determine the dates of their campaigns, the themes, activities, and goals. For me and the campaign I coordinate? We haven’t completely formulated what educational, fun, awareness-building, and fund-raising events are in store, but the same purpose as always will drive our campaign as it does all other campaigns – the need is great.

I encourage everyone to carefully consider lending support to a deserving charity this year. I’m perhaps biased, but if you’re a federal employee, the CFC offers a ready-made avenue.

This country wrestles with social welfare programs and undoubtedly always will, but ultimately we have to understand one thing: It’s people – you and me – who help fund charitable organizations and groups that supplement whatever social programs our government chooses to fund, and others it doesn’t. That’s a tall order and carries a lot of responsibility, and it bears serious thought.

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