Don’t Dismiss Federal Employees, the Nation’s Most Charitable Workforce

My dad was a career civil servant who spent more than 40 years in the federal government. He was highly educated, dedicated, and hard working. His career culminated when he was one of a group of senior managers from the Department of Commerce who helped create the National Oceanic and Space Administration (NOAA), a federal agency that has had a measureable, positive impact on our ability to predict weather and thus save lives. He was also a contributor in the early years of the Combined Federal Campaign (CFC), which has grown over the years to become the single largest employee workplace giving effort in the country, raising some $282 million each year.

I don’t know how much he gave, but I do know he did give each and every year. He also gave to other causes and encouraged me to volunteer as a kid. Like the millions of civil servants who go about doing their jobs without fanfare (and without the carrot of stock options or massive bonuses), my dad was able to provide a solid middle class lifestyle for our family. Now as then, public servants are, for the most part, doing what they do because they have a penchant for serving. They have a mission orientation, not unlike what you see with folks who work in charitable organizations working to feed and house families, find cures for diseases, or help children mired in foster care. And now, with a bill proposed to cut the federal workforce by 10 percent, these four million mission-driven public servants are fearing for their careers. Worse even, some uninformed critics are claiming that federal employees are over-compensated or less productive than their private sector counterparts. I’ve known hundreds of federal employees over the years and every one of them – my dad included – likely could have made more money working in the private sector. They chose public service instead. They also choose to be incredibly generous; federal employees excel in their commitment to philanthropy. The 350,000-plus federal employees here in the Washington area, and the others around the country, are among the most charitable employees in the world. Since 1961, they have donated more than $6 billion to charity, with an average gift of more than $250 each year. Their charitable efforts through the CFC, the Feds Feed Families program, and other volunteer initiatives make a difference in every community where federal employees and the labor unions representing them have a presence. In these difficult times everyone is being asked to make sacrifices. Sacrifices are one thing. But the droning on from certain quarters about the quality and value of federal employees seems rather disingenuous. Federal employees are as committed to their jobs and they work as hard as anyone. And they are among the most philanthropic and civic-minded people in the work. And I suspect that, despite the bashing and despite their justified concerns in today’s budget-cutting environment, federal employees will once again raise more by their charitable gifts through the CFC than ever before. How’s that possible? Because federal employees are “mission” driven. They are concerned about their communities. They support those causes important to them. And they do that every day. I, for one, want to thank our nation’s civil servants – whether they are federal, state or local government employees – for their work and for their generosity through the Combined Federal Campaign. One behalf of America’s Charities and our over 120 national and local charity members, thank you!

Steve Delfin

Steve's BlogSteve has 30 years of experience working in and with major national and international not-for-profit organizations and socially-responsible international corporations, including a long history of engagement with and leadership around workplace giving and employee volunteerism programs.