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February 29, 2012
Thank you, Keith [Willingham] for that introduction.
I want to start by thanking you, and all the donors who stand behind you, for all the work that you do. You know the stats already, but they bear repeating: Federal workers and military personnel pledged over $280 million in each of the last two years through the Combined Federal Campaign. We are approaching the $7 billion dollar mark for donations - 7 billion dollars over fifty years - and we haven't even finished counting up this year's total.
Those statistics speak of an amazing, generous Federal workforce. And they speak well of you. We have all of you to thank for pulling together all of the pieces and making it work. Without your leadership and your countless hours of work, none of this would be possible.
This program hinges on your voices, on your creativity, on your diligence and on your integrity. You have made the CFC, year after year, the largest and best workplace charity drive in the world. Thank you and congratulations.
This week - this conference - is about making the CFC as good as it can be. It's about learning from each other, taking inspiration, and renewing the purpose that has held the CFC strong for fifty years.
And while we take this anniversary moment to recognize what we have done well over the past year and the past fifty years, I ask that you think also about the coming year, and the coming fifty years, so that the CFC can continue to serve and succeed.
You may remember that last year at this conference, I called for the creation of a CFC-50 Commission. We brought together 28 people representing every kind of stakeholder – charities, watchdog groups, and CFC campaign workers from a range of campaigns. And we brought in two excellent, bi-partisan co-chairs with a combined 28 years of leadership in Congress.
I asked the Commission to take a look at our CFC practices - to kick the tires and look under the hood. To ask: Are we organized the best way possible? Are we reaching our donors? Are we doing all that we can to engage newer Federal workers as both donors and campaign organizers? Are there charities that people want to assist that are not yet listed with the CFC? Are we using our resources in the most efficient way possible? Are we eliminating waste?
What can we do better? How can we do that? When should we implement changes? Who should we look toward for support? Where should we direct our energies to make sure our reach remains as effective as possible?
Discussing these questions and answering them will make the CFC stronger, more agile, more adaptable, and more relevant to more Federal workers and more charities in the 21st century.
In the same vein, I want to ask each of you, as you attend your workshops and discussions today and over the next few days, to think about what you can learn. How you can make the CFC stronger, and better, and more robust for this year and the coming years.
But that's not the only reason we're here. We're not just here to learn the hows, the whats and the whens. We're not just here to take pride in the money raised and the job well done.
We're here to do a good job. We're here to do good.
We're here to follow through on the simple rule that we should treat others the way we wish to be treated. It is an injunction that every major world religion shares. That we should help those in need, as we would want to be helped.
I believe the act of charity speaks to each of us deeply. As givers, as receivers, or even as observers, it is a profound experience to see one person help another.
It feels right.
It calls up a human dignity that we don't always see. To give to another, and ask nothing in return.
We give because we see others facing hardships that we have felt ourselves.
"I survived cancer," a CFC donor in Pittsburgh told me recently. "I figure it's for a reason. Every day I'm alive is another day closer to a cure. And that's why I give."
Sometimes, we give because we are moved by an event. We rise and respond to tornadoes in the heartland, or wildfires in the west, or floods in the northeast. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, we saw per capita gifts rise in New Orleans and Mississippi, as Federal workers helped neighbors who were left with nothing begin to rebuild.
We give because it actually helps. The nearly $300 million dollars you raised last year actually helped people. You know it. You've seen it. From free senior clinics to children's cancer treatments, from the disaster relief phone banks to rural food banks, our help makes a difference every day.
There is no doubt in my mind Federal workers give to the CFC for many of the same reasons that they chose public service. You don't do it to be heroes - though there are heroes among you.
You do it because you believe in helping people. Because you believe nature's beauty is worth protecting. Because you believe diseases need treatment. Because you believe our children and our grandchildren deserve a world that is more bountiful, more prosperous, and more beautiful than we found it.
We give because we want to. We give because we can. We give because we ought to. We give because we believe in an America where neighbors help one another.
However, good intentions are not enough. We need to strive constantly to be as efficient as possible so that as much money as possible is reaching charities rather than paying for administrative overhead.
That's why I've asked the CFC-50 Commission to take a look at how we streamline campaign infrastructure, how we enhance our donor experience, how we strengthen our local campaigns, and how we make sure that the CFC can stand up as the gold standard of workplace giving accountability.
As you well know, integrity, accountability and transparency are the keystones of any charitable endeavor. When any of these are weakened in the eyes of a donor, they will find other avenues to make contributions.
They will rightly ask not only what we say, but what we do. They will not distinguish between our methods and our motivations. It is a great responsibility to live up to the trust our donors place in you, and to make the most difference for our CFC charities.
I want to be very clear. For all the same reasons that the work we do matters, the way we do it matters too. Your business practices are important. OPM's regulations govern the conduct of the campaign, and are designed to safeguard its integrity and ensure that the moneys entrusted to our care by generous federal employees are well-spent. You'll have a chance this week to refresh your memory on our regulations, on ethics, on compliance and on choosing Principal Combined Fund Organizations.
Our donors expect us to honor the spirit in which each dollar is given. They expect us to manage every dime with care. Let's manage it as though it would help feed a child, or help provide a new start for someone who has lost a home. Because that is the spirit in which every dollar is given. That labor of love is self-contained and requires no further reward.
These ideals do not become real without work - sometimes hard work. Just as your actions make our Constitution more than words on a page in your daily work, your work with the CFC makes our intentions more than thoughts. It is up to us, here in this room, to make our high ideals real in the world.
You do that work.
So on behalf of all who admire charity, and all who depend upon it: Thank you.
Thank you, God Bless you, and God Bless the United States of America.
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