Ginny Brown says she never expected the kind of fulfillment she’s found as campaign assistant at the State Employees Charitable Campaign (SECC). She took the position as a special assignment at the Arizona Department of Transportation, and quickly found that the charity work was tailor-made for her.
“From what I was doing at (ADOT) compared to this, it’s a complete turnaround,” she says. “I feel like I’m able to help people.”
It’s that kind of feeling that the campaign tries to pass on to every state employee who contributes to charity. The campaign gathers money from state employees and donates it to charities of their choice.
Each fund-raising cycle begins in January, with several hundred state employees from various agencies volunteering to campaign in their respective workplaces. It’s a six-week pledge drive, plus special events that raise additional money and keep employees engaged throughout the year.
Employees have a few options if they want to donate. They can designate a certain amount of their paycheck, or just donate a lump sum to the charity of their choice. A new “Click ‘N Give” system allows state employees to donate online in a system powered by PayPal.
According to Angela Fischer, the SECC’s executive director, 600 and 700 charities are eligible to receive the money donated by state employees.
“Each employee chooses the charity or charities they would like to support,” Fischer says. “There are several big name charities in our campaign such as the American Cancer Society, Ronald McDonald House Charities, and Boys and Girls Clubs, just to name a few.”
Each charity has to demonstrate that it meets the campaign’s criteria on an annual basis. In addition to large, nationwide charities, many local groups receive money as well. Valley of the Sun United Way and Hospice of the Valley are two local operations that count the State Employees Charitable Campaign as a major contributor.
Employees Helping Employees was established in 1989 as a way for state employees to help other state employees having trouble paying their rent, mortgage and utility bills. Judy Barrette, the group’s president, says that all of Employees Helping Employees’ money comes from SECC.
“The only way we get money is through their campaign,” she says. “This program never would have happened without (the campaign). Depending on how much is pledged each year, we help between 200 and 300 state employees a year with that money.”
Rachel St. Moritz, community relations and events manager for the 100 Club, says that being a charity on the SECC’s list is a great help to the work they do. The 100 Club provides relief for families of fire, public safety or law enforcement workers who are injured or killed in the line of duty.
“I think they help a lot,” St. Moritz says. “We get a lot through them as a big source of funding. A lot of (state employees) choose to designate funds to us from their paychecks, so being a charity on the list helps us a lot. They could donate just six dollars through their paycheck, and over the years and paychecks, that really adds up.”
At least 90 percent of every dollar raised by SECC goes directly to the charities, Fischer says. Despite all of the volunteer work that goes on, she says, some administrative costs are unavoidable.
“A small percentage of the donations goes to support the campaign,” she says. “We work very hard to keep the administrative overhead low so the charities receive as much as possible.”
Fischer says that donations vary from year to year, and that 18,000 employees donated in the campaign’s most successful year.
“We took in $2.3 million in our best year ever,” she says. “That was when the economy was booming. The campaign and the charities we support have suffered in this economic downturn.”
“One year we had 13,000 donors, and another year we had 4,000 donors,” Brown adds. “Everyone’s been hit pretty hard from the economy, but we still have loyal donors who will donate no matter what.”
The organization still manages to receive a steady flow of contributions despite the state’s economic woes.
It raised slightly more than $1.5 million in 2009, and in 2008 it raised more than $2 million. Hospice of the Valley, a charity that provides end-of-life care and support to families, reports that the State Employees Charitable Campaign has increased its contributions each year since 1993, giving nearly $1 million during the past 18 years.
The next order of business for SECC involves streamlining the entire donor process. In addition to the new “Click ‘N Give” online payment system, a plan is in place to allow charities to submit applications for eligibility online instead of through the mail.
“Since we went online, there’s been a slight dip,” Brown says. “Statistics have shown that any charity that goes online will have a dip. We’re hoping this year it’ll pick up a lot better.”
The state of the economy aside, SECC provides a sense of fulfillment that employees can take home with them after making a donation to their favorite charity.
“It’s a lot of work, but I feel so good about my job,” Brown says. “I love that we can help people.”