The 2020 Combined Federal Campaign, the federal government’s unified charitable giving effort, kicked off Sept. 21, but pandemic restrictions have caused the program to turn to technology to spread the word and streamline the giving process.

The kickoff event for the CFC of the National Capital Area, which raised over a third of the total CFC contributions in 2019, was hosted Sept. 22 online, rather than in person.

“It’s been a tough year for all of us, but like the lyrics from one of my favorite Billy Ocean songs in the 1980s, ‘when the going gets tough, the tough get going,’” CFCNCA Local Federal Coordinating Committee Chair Vince Micone said at the virtual kickoff.

“As federal employees we know this; it’s built into our DNA. There is no problem too difficult, no challenge too big for us. Even today, the world is becoming a better place because of what you are doing at your jobs every single day.”

According to Ann Van Houten, CFCNCA co-chair, the virtual kickoff and associated training events may have the added benefit of increasing the impact that CFC has on potential donors.

“We think the new platform will resonate well with folks,” Van Houten told Federal Times. “We can reach more people more easily.”

In addition to the “show some love” slogan that CFCNCA has used for several years, the 2020 season will also feature a “be the face of change” message, to encourage donors to post selfies and stories about why they donate, to take the place of in-person donation events.

Feds, service members and retirees will also have the option to use more tech-based tools to contribute, including a new CFC mobile app and updated website, in addition to technical improvements that have been made over the past couple years.

“Take a moment to reflect on our own reasons for giving through the CFC and supporting the campaign,” said Jody Olsen, director of the Peace Corps and who is serving as the honorary CFC chair for the third time.

“Is it to honor somebody you know? Are you continuing a tradition inspired by someone you admire? Do you feel passionate about giving your time in support of a special cause? We all have a personal reason and when we make the choice to give through the CFC, we each hold the power in our own hands.”

Since 2017, the campaign has also provided the option for feds to pledge volunteer hours to various charitable organizations in addition to or in lieu of monetary donations.

“Volunteer hours still remain a viable way to give back,” Van Houten said. “We have already started to see charities shift in how they do virtual donor hours.”

According to Van Houten, feds can still perform services like back office work from the comfort of their own homes, ensuring that charities receive needed assistance without risking COVID exposure.

“Many opportunities can be done from your home and on your schedule. Writing, editing, fundraising, recruitment, graphic design and web support are skills in demand by most all organizations,” said Mary Taylor, recipient of the 2020 National Capital Area Hero Award, which is given to those employees that make a significant difference in CFC.

In spite of increased avenues for giving and improved online portals, CFC has faced shrinking donation totals over the years, going from $167 million contributed in 2016 to $86.4 million in 2019.

CFC leaders have noted over the past few years that uncertainties caused by the recent federal government shutdown and major natural disasters can have a negative impact on contribution totals.

Van Houten also told Federal Times that CFC totals still represent a significant difference that the program has made for charitable organizations, and they “aren’t so focused on a specific dollar number.”

The 2020 CFC season runs through Jan. 15, 2021, and is open to all current and retired federal employees and service members.

Jessie Bur covers federal IT and management.

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