Months before the start of the 2022 “COH Cares” Combined Municipal Campaign, three nonprofits — Houston Area Parkinson Society, Houston’s Freedmen’s Town Conservancy and Sunshine and Daisy Mobile Food Pantry — joined the campaign family as independent agencies.
All three agencies had hopes of being on the receiving end of COH employees’ generosity. They were not disappointed.
CMC Citywide Coordinator Jennifer Cobb said she was impressed to realize that not only had employees exceeded the citywide contribution goal for a second year in a row despite still living through a pandemic, but the participation percentage – which historically hovered around 45% - also increased nine points to finish at 54%.
“The increase in participation this year is by far what I am most proud of,” she said. “It might not seem like much, but it absolutely is. I’ve been with the city for six years, this is my seventh campaign, and this is the highest percentage participation we’ve had.”
In total, city employees pledged to donate just under $700,000 during the campaign, with most of the funds coming from payroll deductions.
“In 2020, we suspended all in-person fundraising and instituted new safety protocols that limited the range of fundraisers departments could host, thus relying heavily on payroll deductions,” Cobb explained.
“This development caused all of us to think outside the box to come up with creative – and still fun – ways to fundraise for the nonprofits registered with the campaign and hit hardest by the pandemic,” she said.
Luckily in 2021, some of those protocols expired thus allowing departments a little more of the flexibility they’re used to, allowing them to host their staple fundraisers, including The City of Houston Parks’ and Recreation Department Annual CMC Golf Tournament in November.
Golfers returned to enjoy the annual tournament at the newly renovated Gus Wortham Golf Course. The proceeds benefited Christus Foundation for Healthcare.
“City of Houston employees love to participate in this annual tournament to enjoy the golf course and know their contribution is for a good cause helping underserved and uninsured people to receive compassionate healthcare and related services,” said Erika Madison, HPARD CMC coordinator.
HR transformed their staple talent show fundraiser yet again to mimic TikTok’s short-form videos even packaging snack bags with viewing tickets. The Planning Department utilized in-house resources to create trendy t-shirt designs and sold the t-shirts to benefit three different CMC agencies.
Through all this creativity and patience, 16 of the 25 departments exceeded either their contribution or participation goals, with seven departments exceeding both.
“For larger departments, like Houston Airport System, having CMC events all year is the best change because it affords us the opportunity to join in on more planned activities and meetings to raise more money for great causes,” said Harry Singh, CMC coordinator for HAS.
“Due to COVID-19 restrictions, we could not hold a lot of “in-person” activities, which the team members really enjoy. Hopefully, the restrictions will be lifted [completely] next year.”
So much has changed over the past two years and more changes are still to come. Fundraising will be open to departments year-round, with October still designated as the official month of the CMC.
Starting in calendar year 2023, the city will implement a new platform to capture employee donations, provide opportunities for employee volunteerism and cast a wider net of nonprofit organizations that would benefit from the city’s campaign.
“It has been a long time coming and I am happy to be moving forward with this update,” Cobb said. “I always have a lot of fun during CMC time. It’s certainly stressful at times but the reward for me is seeing the creativity of the departments, the teamwork, the participation and knowing all of this is for such a good cause.”