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 News Article

Commentary: Lessons Learned From 2013 CFC Campaign

By Navy Lt. Michael Hartline
Department of Defense Voluntary Campaign Management Office

WASHINGTON, Sept. 2, 2014 – I had the opportunity co-manage efforts for the Combined Federal Campaign (CFC) last year for the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL). Working with more than 100 key workers and coordinators, we created much-needed awareness to generate funding that would provide those in need with clothing, food and shelter along with research opportunities to develop life-saving treatments for the ill and suffering. The 2013 season faced many challenges as U.S. government employees suffered furloughs over the summer in an effort to reduce the amount of federal spending. Along with other agencies, our efforts were rushed as we prepared to kick off the season in late September, three to four weeks behind schedule from previous years. On Oct. 1, 2013, the federal government shutdown forced campaign efforts to stop. More than two weeks later the government reopened and our efforts were expected to resume normal operations, seeking donations in order to achieve financial goals assigned.

Based on the above-mentioned challenges, I used the experience from the 2013 campaign effort to conduct a needs assessment. I wanted to understand the linkage between the CFC of the National Capital Area (CFCNCA) desired outcomes and what plans the involved agencies were prepared to execute. Ultimately, since the CFCNCA assigned goal was not achieved, I sought to understand what factors may have affected this outcome and whether additional training or support could have made a significant difference.

The objective of this assessment was to identify key elements in the campaign that require more attention during financial uncertainty. During challenging times, it’s important to understand the resources available to campaign managers in order to better strive for fiscal success. To better assess a campaign manager’s knowledge and capabilities, I felt the following objectives should be addressed:

  1. Identify level of knowledge and experience with running fundraising campaign efforts.
  2. Recognize marketing and networking experiences from campaign managers and determine if there are links to goal achievement.
  3. Determine if training provided to campaign managers was sufficient enough to conduct fundraising events and if those events raised a specific amount of funding.
  4. Ascertain the level of motivation by an agency, measured by marketing techniques used, fundraising efforts conducted and internal and external agencies that were used to create awareness efforts.
  5. Determine if assigned goals are reasonable to achieve and if elements concerning fiscal uncertainty coupled with emergency situations are carefully considered when goals are assigned to agencies. 


2013 was hit hard across the nation from people not being nearly as generous. Having the expectation that an organization should solicit “voluntary” donations from potential donors may initially seem perplexing. The reality is that this year we could see government employees not wanting to donate, and there should be no expectation that they should. However, the reality is that there are generous people in every organization and they need to be provided an avenue to donate. This is where effective campaign managers come in. Thus, I elected to focus this needs assessment on competencies required to be effective campaign managers.


I conducted two survey sets where I inquired to key elements associated with the campaign effort. Analyzing data that compared the number of employees per agency and goal achievement yielded a result of goals being assigned with little basis for agency size. Rather, believability to attain a specified goal based on previous year’s performance was used. I analyzed the number of events that agencies conducted and compared the amount that each agency raised, which yielded an average of six fundraising events that could raise an average of $4,057.58 in direct funding, which would have the potential to create enough awareness to help an agency achieve on average 87.2 percent of its assigned goal. The surveys were also designed to best determine what skill sets would make a successful campaign manager.


What I was able to build was a competency model that would be forwarded to agency chairs who would assign campaign managers to head the CFC efforts in their command:


CFC Campaign Manager Competency Model



CFC Campaign Manager – Core Competencies

Primary Skill Sets

Flexibility to Challenges

Possess Positive “Can Do” Attitude

Outgoing (Extroverted)

Secondary Skill Sets



Oral Communicator

Requisite Knowledge

Networking Capabilities and Marketing Strategies

Desired Outcomes

Increase CFC Awareness to Would-be Donors

Achieve Reasonable Goals

Lead Competent / Confident Coordinators and Key Workers


In assessing the gaps that could potentially prevent organizations from achieving their assigned goals, the following recommendations were forwarded for consideration:


  1. The Combined Federal Campaign staff should analyze recent economic factors when assigning goals. Ensure that goals are reasonably attainable. If additional elements in the form of crisis and economic downturns exist, consider removing goals from the campaign effort.
  2. Pass along the CFC Campaign Manager Core Competency Model so that agency/command chairs can make a strong assessment for soliciting or assigning an employee as their CFC campaign manager. Recommend that commanding officers request personnel to volunteer for positions as this will have the potential to yield a more positive campaign effort from those who desire to manage the fundraising effort.
  3. Provide campaign managers additional training with an emphasis on networking strategies and marketing techniques. Encourage campaign managers to network and communicate with one another during the campaign season by providing campaign managers phone and e-mail contact information.
  4. Recommend that CFC campaign managers have an in-depth understanding of who their assigned key workers and coordinators are. Engage with the volunteers on a frequent basis to better understand their challenges when conducting solicitation efforts.
  5. To increase participation reporting, recommend incorporating special event number of personnel in attendance.
  6. Close the loop for the agency campaign efforts by recognizing your coordinators and key workers.


My belief is that focusing efforts on these recommendations will create the awareness that the campaign desperately needs, thereby reaching would-be donors and providing multiple avenues for them to fund organizations that feed starving children and stimulate necessary research to improve the lives of the sick and dying.

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