’Tis the season for traditions and familiar customs. At NCI Frederick—and within the federal government at large—you’ll find one that isn’t mixed in with decorations but more likely nestled somewhere in your email inbox.
This tradition is the Combined Federal Campaign (CFC), the government’s official nonprofit charity initiative, held from September to January every year.
“It’s one of the largest and most successful workplace-type campaigns in the world,” said Carrie Wagerman, a lead program analyst in the Office of Scientific Operations who’s leading NCI Frederick’s participation in the campaign this year.
The CFC reports having raised $8.6 billion nationwide since it was created 61 years ago. That impact comes from its “combined” nature, which unites federal employees and contractors in making donations to vetted and approved charities in one coordinated effort. This year, donors can choose from more than 5,000 nonprofit organizations to support.
NCI Frederick federal staff and Frederick National Laboratory contractors are able to make lump-sum donations through the CFC. NCI Frederick federal staff can also donate automatically through paycheck deductions.
“The strength of a program like this is the ease of use,” Wagerman said. “You get to a point where you don’t even notice [the deductions are] coming out, and you know you’re doing good.”
As of this week, NCI Frederick staff and contractors have raised $26,090 for charity since the campaign launched in September. But the real impact becomes clear when one looks at the bigger picture, said Wagerman. NCI Frederick is part of the CFC’s Chesapeake Bay Area, which has already raised nearly $2.5 million in this year’s campaign. On Giving Tuesday alone, the entire CFC raised nearly $3.1 million.
“Seeing the impact the federal workforce has in terms of the grand scale is kind of baffling sometimes,” Wagerman said.
The CFC also enables people to contribute the gift of time by volunteering with a charity or working directly with the campaign. The CFC reports that as of mid-December, volunteers in the Chesapeake Bay Area alone have donated 580 hours of their time, estimated at over $13,000 in value.
Wagerman, who has been a campaign worker with the CFC for several years, describes the entire experience as powerful. “It makes it easier for us to work towards changing the world little by little. You feel like our collective contributions just make a huge impact,” she said.
Under normal circumstances, the CFC would host multiple in-person fundraising events in addition to collecting donations online. The pandemic has forced most events to move to a virtual format for safety. Wagerman hopes to be able to bring these in-person gatherings back to NCI Frederick over the next few years.
Regardless of how or what people contribute, Wagerman says the important thing is to think of others, consider how to make an impact, and remember that no amount of help and kindness is too small.
“Everybody who contributes in some way—as a volunteer or even if it’s donating to another charity outside of the CFC—is, in the grand scheme of things, contributing to the larger effort,” she said.
That’s a holiday tradition worth keeping.
Samuel Lopez leads the editorial team in Scientific Publications, Graphics & Media (SPGM). He writes for newsletters; informally serves as an institutional historian; and edits scientific manuscripts, corporate documents, and a slew of other written media. SPGM is the creative services department and hub for editing, illustration, graphic design, formatting, multimedia, and training in these areas.