When NIEHS launched its annual Combined Federal Campaign (CFC) charity drive last fall, it did so with the modest goal of raising $50,000. On Jan. 15, the campaign drew to a close with donations blowing past the goal, to more than double the amount.
“I’ll be honest. I was deeply concerned when we began that this year’s drive would not be much of a success because of COVID-19,” said Troy Deaton, an NIEHS information technology supervisor and co-chair of the 2020 campaign. “We witnessed an unprecedented level of support from NIEHS leadership, coupled with an overwhelming show of generosity from the institute at large.”
In all, the 2020 CFC brought home an impressive total of more than $109,000 in donations to hundreds of charities around the country. Moreover, NIEHS employees set a new record for pledged volunteer time — 345 hours.
“In 2019, our institute recorded 313 hours of volunteer time through that year’s campaign,” said Robin Arnette, Ph.D., a science editor in the Office of Communications and Public Liaison and CFC co-chair. “This year’s result may not seem like much of a leap from that figure. When set against the backdrop of the pandemic, however, at a time when most were rightfully leery of crowds, it is plain to see how downright amazing this year’s turnout really was.”
A different campaign for a different time
The CFC mission is to support philanthropy through an employee-focused program that is cost-efficient and effective in providing all federal workers the chance to support charitable causes of their choosing. In years past, employees meet these charities through in-person events such as fairs and fundraiser luncheons. This year, that had to change.
“Right out of the gate, we knew we would have to adapt to make CFC more accessible online,” said John Schelp, a community outreach specialist in the Office of Science Education and Diversity. “That started with our director’s all-hands messages, which highlighted CFC’s impact over the years and reminded folks that they could still donate if they wanted. From there, we started branching out as we all became more comfortable in the virtual world.”
“The implementation of the Zoom feature on the NIEHS network proved tremendously useful,” Deaton added. “As organizers, that gave us a platform where our fellow employees could engage with our charity guest speakers and ask questions, even though they couldn’t physically be in the room.” The group cited the 2020 Veterans Day event as one of the campaign’s biggest virtual successes.
Still making an impact
With unemployment still affecting many Americans, some have found it difficult to feed their own families, much less carve out a slice of their income for giving to others. So Schelp and his colleagues are grateful to their peers for making charity a priority, even in hard times.
“Every day, we read about evictions, domestic violence, neighbors in shelters — all made worse by the pandemic,” Schelp said. “These aren’t challenges in faraway places. This is happening right here, in our own communities. To see NIEHS step up the way it has is nothing short of remarkable.”
CFC is managed nationwide by the U.S. Office of Personnel and Management. Visit the OPM website to learn more about the campaign, or go to carolinascfc.givecfc.org to see how CFC donations are changing lives in the Carolinas.
(Ian Thomas is a public affairs specialist in the Office of Communications and Public Liaison and a regular contributor to the Environmental Factor.)