Saturday, February 7, 2009

Using the Combined Federal Campaign to raise money & morale

I accidentally became the CFC Coordinator for the Department of Education’s Office of Management this year. I became a volunteer when I strayed into our FOIA Chief’s office mid-way through a conversation she was having with someone else and thinking they were talking about the need for CFC Keyworkers, I volunteered. Later in the day, as the news circulated among the staff that I volunteered to be Coordinator, I discovered many, many people thought I was absolutely crazy. I was asked if I knew just how much work I had taken on and was encouraged to back out of the commitment. While I was an “accidental” volunteer, my word is my bond and I determined that I would make the most of the opportunity.

My experience with CFC is limited so I talked to staff and former Keyworkers about their experience and inquired about the kinds of things they thought worked in the past. But it seemed to me after talking to various people that, for better or worse, CFC at the Department of Education is run by an unofficial CFC playbook which goes something like this … host an event and invite charities to speak, host a fundraiser like a bake sale or Chili Cook-off, send off e-mail pleas to staff for contributions and prominently post your Office Dollar Goal and contribution data.

While it is great to utilize tried and true methods of raising funds, I wanted to test some different ways of raising awareness while building on some successful methods I previously used in the private sector for customer care training and employee engagement initiatives. I’m naturally an introvert but I was willing to put myself out there because generating a positive buzz, inspiring a more caring nature in our daily activities and, of course, generating funds for worthy charities energizes me.

So, what kinds of things did I try?

• Holiday Themed e-mail campaign – Columbus Day, Halloween, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving, December, New Year’s

• Stories of Caring which were e-mailed to all OM staff.

• Daily Inspirational Quote easels located at the second floor elevator banks

• White Elephant Sales

• Education Idol in Barnard Auditorium

OM raised over $25,000 from individual donations and $2,000 from the 3 events. I’ve done charitable work for over 30 years so I’m a believer in giving back to the community and thoroughly enjoyed the “accidental” opportunity to be a CFC Coordinator. The most important benefit to me though was that I can now walk up and down the 2nd floor of the Department of Education building and I can say “Hi” to at least 100 staffers actually utilizing their first name to greet them. So, I encourage you to “step outside your cubicle” on purpose rather than by accident as there are wonderful colleagues to get to know and collaborate with on projects.

Editor's note: Ruth's work introduced a leavening element into the headquarters culture at ED. Her idea to place inspirational quotes strategically within Office of Management space meant that a couple of hundred people were exposed every day. Here's an example that has been attributed to John Wooden, UCLA basketball coach: "Do not let what you can't do interfere with what you can do." Ruth invested her own time to find quotes that foster leadership behavior, rotating them every few days. The effect was to make employees suspend their busy-ness at the easels long enough to read the quotes. Ruth's effort to make room for more reflection on what we are doing was incredibly important.

Ruth Zimmerman, a management and program analyst, is assigned to Regulatory Information Management Services, Office of Management, U.S. Department of Education. We're so glad she's there.

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