News: Pentagon's CFC Charity Fair Kicks Off Season of Giving
Story by Samantha Quigley
WASHINGTON - The annual Defense Department Combined Federal Campaign Charity Fair kicked off at the Pentagon, Oct. 2, to provide employees insight into some of the nonprofit organizations that benefit from their donations.
The Combined Federal Campaign is an annual fundraising drive conducted by federal employees in their workplace each fall. The three-day fair offers Pentagon employees the opportunity to learn more about some of the charities, like the United Service Organizations, that benefit from their donations to the CFC.
"(We can) let people know that the USO is still out there and doing the wonderful services for our military as we did back in the earlier days of Bob Hope," said Margo Durham, with USO Headquarters.
She added that these kinds of charity fairs result in increased giving. It's also an opportunity to inform visitors about some of USO's lesser-known programs, Durham said. "Not only do we do entertainment, but we do family service items as well, like storybook readings," she said.
That program allows service members to record themselves reading books to children at home. Recordings are sent home to families, reminding the children that Mom or Dad is thinking of them.
USO has a long, proud tradition of bringing a touch of home to service members wherever they may be serving through programs like its USO airport lounges and USO tours. Durham said events like the Pentagon's are beneficial on multiple levels.
USO is a supporter of America Supports You, a Defense Department program connecting citizens and corporations with military personnel and their families serving at home and abroad.
Other group representatives agreed with Durham's assessment that the charity fair provides visibility and is an important function in which they need to be involved.
"Overall, we get about 90 percent of our budget from CFC donations," said Molly McAndrew, a representative for Community Health Charities of the national capital area. "Since this is the biggest fair, we find it extra important to make sure (we're) here."
Community Health Charities is an umbrella organization for more than 80 health-related charities in the national capital area.
Pentagon employees find the CFC fair helpful in deciding where to direct their charity dollars.
Veronica Hayes has worked in the building for nearly three years and attended the annual fair for the first time yesterday. She said the event was very informative as she prepared to participate in the CFC.
"It is (helpful), especially when I was learning about the coffee being grown in different villages," she said after speaking to representatives from the Jane Goodall Institute, which works to help African villages grow coffee with little or no impact to the environment, especially primates.
Hayes is just one of the nearly 88,000 defense workers in the national capital area, said Lou Torchia, director of the Voluntary Campaign Management Office. That doesn't include the CFC overseas program, which, depending upon deployments, has a potential donor pool that's nearly 300,000 defense workers strong.
Officials hope these employees will help break the Defense Department's goal in the same fashion they did last year, Torchia said. "We shattered our goal of last year by almost $2.7 million," he said. "DoD's goal this year is $13.2 million. That's $200,000 more than last year, and (it's) our most aggressive goal."
Torchia said he has very little doubt that defense employees will meet or exceed this year's goal. "DoD in the national capital area stands heads above other federal agencies, with a participation rate historically around 60 percent, with the rest of the national average in the high 30s," he said.
The Defense Department as a whole reaches about 880,000 military and civilian employees annually and contributes somewhere between $80 and $100 million a year. The overall Office of Personnel Management fundraising total was just more than $270 million for 2006.
The national capital area's average per donor gift is around $320. Overseas the average donation is slightly less at $170. The difference can be traced, in part, to issues governing reservists' being able to make payroll deductions.
Even more important than the increase in the donation goal is the move from a four-digit charity identification code to a five-digit code.
"Many people carry a copy of their pledge cards in their wallets," Torchia said. "When CFC time comes around they pull them out, copy the codes and put them (away). That's not going to happen this year."
Torchia and his team are promoting the "Power of Five," a push to make sure donors know about the new, longer codes. "That's to make sure the actual pledge cards ... reflect that five-digit code," he said. "We don't want any (donations) misdirected."
The roughly 90 nonprofit groups from the national capital region, about 30 each day, will provide information between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. at the apex of Corridors 1 and 2, near the relocated Hall of Heroes. The event will conclude tomorrow.
Yesterday's group of charities included the Pentagon Memorial Fund, the Jane Goodall Institute, Institute For Black Charities, Save the Bay, PetSmart Charities, Community Health Charities of the National Capital Area, and the United Service Organizations. Our Military Kids, another supporter of the America Supports You program, is participating today.