I’m going to apologize in advance. You’re probably expecting the type of witty, touching, or simply resourceful post you’ve come to expect from my wife. Not today. Today you’re stuck with me, her husband. Unfortunately for you, as a federal employee for the last 10 years, pretty much any creative writing ability I previously possessed (I did have a haiku published in the 7th grade literary magazine) has been extinguished. However, being a federal employee has also brought me in touch with the Combined Federal Campaign (CFC), which is an annual fundraising effort among federal and Postal Service employees and members of the military to raise money for worthy charities. Last year CFC participants raised more than $65 million in support of local, national, and international charities. Since we’re in the midst of the “30 Day Giving Challenge” Amy asked me to write about how we use the CFC to both support worthy charities and deepen our family’s commitment to giving.
To start, I must say that participating in the CFC is a massive and rather daunting undertaking. It begins when you receive a “Catalog of Caring” which lists pre-screened charities that perform their work in a wide variety of areas ranging from housing to animal welfare to civil rights to foreign assistance. The catalog often contains more than150 pages of microprint listing thousands of individual charities seeking support. Each charity prepares a brief statement of what it does, the URL for its website, and the percentage of donations spent on administrative costs. As a result, it would usually take me several days worth of train rides commuting to and from work to cull through the list and make my selection of charities I wanted to donate to for the year.
While it has always been rewarding for me to choose several charities to support financially through the CFC, this year I discovered a way to make it even more rewarding—involve the kids. At 4 and 6 years old, they’ve had plenty of exposure to donating money at Sunday school, giving away used clothing, and supporting a child through Compassion International, but I decided that this was the year for them to help choose the charities we’d support through the CFC. Instead of making the final decisions myself, I simply narrowed the list of charities from several thousand down to less than a dozen. I then sat the kids down one Sunday afternoon and gave them their mission: They were each to choose one charity that would receive half of the money I allotted to go to the CFC from my paycheck. We visited the website for each of the charities that made my list to get more information on what they do and who they serve. Unsurprisingly, the kids loved to see each charity’s photos illustrating their work. Regardless of whether it was a picture of a homeless person receiving a warm meal or a school teacher in Africa graciously accepting a load of books, the kids really enjoyed getting to see that real people would benefit from their choices.
What was surprising, though, was how thoughtful they were about how to select the charity they wanted to support. I thought for sure my daughter would immediately choose the charity that involved therapeutic horseback riding for children and adults with physical and cognitive disabilities because of her adoration of horses (Lift Me Up). And I thought my physically active son would choose to support a local hockey league exclusively for children on the autism spectrum (Special Hockey Montgomery County). While I was correct that both children gravitated to these charities, I was wrong about their motivation. My daughter didn’t choose her charity because SHE loves horses; she chose it because she thought “the horses would love to give rides to people with disabilities.” And my son chose the hockey league not because he personally wanted to hit a puck with a hockey stick, but because he knows I have a close friend whose son is autistic and plays in the league, so he said he “would know someone who would have fun because of our donation.”
I guess this is just one more situation when I thought I was going to teach my children something and ended up being the one doing the learning. Hopefully the kids will teach me something new when we do this again next year.