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Why feds give

Jan. 13, 2014 - 11:29AM   |  
Tyler Robinson is the Chairman of the Executive Board for Young Government Leaders, and Portfolio Risk Officer at the Export-Import Bank of the United States. / Courtesy of Tyler Robinson


Barbara Bush once said “Giving frees us from the familiar territory of our own needs by opening our mind to the unexplained worlds occupied by the needs of others.” Giving can happen in many different ways, from donating time, resources, or using a career to give back, and regardless of the method of giving, the wholehearted intent to do good for this world is evident.

Young Government Leaders is a professional organization of over 5,000 men and women, across various federal agencies, and is committed to being the authentic voice for the next generation of aspiring government leaders. YGL has observed this spirit of service during its 10 years of existence and wanted to learn more about how the next generation gives. YGL conducted a survey of its members and found that the majority of respondents give back to their community primarily by volunteering (56 percent) rather than donating money (19 percent) or physical items (25 percent). Among 13 different reasons for giving listed, the top 3 were:

■ I feel fortunate and want to give back (87 percent of respondents)

■ A feeling of satisfaction (79 percent of respondents)

■ My duty as a member of the community (73 percent of respondents)

Only 2 percent said they give because the organization they work for expects it of them, the lowest-ranked choice. Finally, when asked what would increase the amount they give, respondents far and away said if they are personally affected by the cause or issue they give more (80 percent of respondents).

One typical way federal employees can give back is through the Combined Federal Campaign (CFC). The CFC is the largest workplace giving campaign in the world, and was created to protect federal employees from constant requests for donations by consolidating them into one campaign. The federal workforce feels fortunate to have a stable, constant career, and to face less employment disruption during difficult economic times (although even they can be affected, as recent events show) – and have given more than $1 billion in the past 5 years.

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The CFC enables giving by engaging more than 4,000 charities. As YGL members want to give to areas where they are personally impacted, the breadth of the number of charities is a real strength of the CFC. When asked how much of their annual giving was done through the CFC the average amount was 12 percent. More could be done to engage newer federal employees, but our respondents who gave their time and their resources feel they have also received something for their giving. As Brené Brown says, “Until we can receive with an open heart, we're never really giving with an open heart.” Many of us give because we’re personally affected – and we know how it feels to receive the help that other people give. By giving back, we connect deeper into our communities. Many of us in federal service desire that deeper connection and enabling those motivations can improve a commitment to their agency’s mission.

The CFC also gives back to the employees who actively engage in the CFC beyond donating. The campaign provides opportunities to network across agencies and develop leadership skills. Campaign managers and coordinators are given the opportunity to build and manage teams, build interpersonal relationships, and deliver results – all considered core qualifications for the federal Senior Executive Service (SES). There are interagency leadership positions, which give employees the opportunity to build coalitions across agencies and adapt to differing cultures between agencies.

Being involved with a charity increases their commitment to the cause and organization because they are connected to the organization, its people, and the people they help. With more than half of the respondents in our survey saying they donate to charity through volunteering, the CFC can do more to engage federal employees by providing more opportunities for them to volunteer. The value of giving one’s time is not factored into the success of the campaign, but for many organizations volunteers are a critical part of providing their services to the community. For the federal workforce, an increased commitment to the community through volunteering can also increase their commitment to the public service they provide as employees.

By understanding these motivations, we can come up with innovative ways to engage people into giving back by connecting them to a cause they believe in and promoting volunteerism that brings skills back to the workplace. A federal employee who is encouraged to volunteer regularly will feel more connected to their community and their agency, and thus find more satisfaction in their lives and their careers. We can and should do more to build the next generation of givers.

Russell Maltempo is the Chair of the Emerging Leadership Council for the Combined Federal Campaign for the National Capital Area (ELC-CFCNCA), and works in IT as a federal employee.

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