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County Employees Giving Back

SeelhammerCoconino County’s annual United Way fundraising campaign is off to a terrific start. I am extremely proud of the contributions by our caring, smart and compassionate Coconino County employees.

Our employees have supported the United Way of Northern Arizona for years, helping the organization achieve its goal of lasting community change through a focus on the education, income and health programs for our residents. In addition to supporting many of our area’s most important non-profits with funding, United Way’s initiatives include KinderCamp, the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program and the recently unveiled LAUNCH Flagstaff partnership to foster a world-class educational system for all of our children from cradle to career.

Last year, I was honored to be the chair for the United Way of Northern Arizona’s fundraising campaign. Being campaign chair was an amazing experience and gave me a unique perspective on the impact United Way has in our community. This year, NAU President Dr. Rita Cheng and her husband, Tom, are doing a terrific job leading the effort. Now, in 2016, Coconino County employees again are coming out strong on behalf of the United Way.

  • To date, we have raised $43,034 of our $45,000 goal. (We collect contributions until Dec. 31.)
  • Almost 23 percent of our employees have donated so far.
  • Thirty-five Coconino County employees are members of the United Way’s Summit Society, with contributions of $500 or more.
  • There are 17 departments who are reporting 50 percent or more of their employees participating in the campaign.

It is an honor to be part of an organization where employees are so committed to the community. But there is more than money being contributed. The county is capitalizing on that giving spirit by encouraging our employees to donate time as well as money.

In July, the beginning of our fiscal year, Coconino County began the Volunteer Time Off (VTO) program, a pilot initiative allowing full-time, regular-status employees to use up to 16 hours of paid time each year to volunteer with schools or other partner non-profits. We see it as an effort that provides a universal win – it benefits our employees, our non-profits, our residents and our local government.

We could not succeed in serving the citizens of Coconino County without the help of our non-profit partner agencies and volunteers are essential to those organizations’ work.

This new VTO initiative also makes sense for the county – and for you, the taxpayers – from a human resources perspective. Offering VTO makes for happier employees, increasing their engagement both in the community and in the workplace. National employee satisfaction surveys show that a VTO program is one of the top tools to attracting and retaining high-quality workers. In fact, 55 of the companies on Fortune Magazine’s 2016 “100 Best Companies” to work for offer VTO off as a perk.

This might be of particular importance to Millennials, younger employees who are far more involved in contributing time and money to non-profits than previous generations. As of last year, Millennials became the country’s largest generational block of employees, surpassing their Gen X colleagues. It is estimated Millennials will make up about 50 percent of the workforce by 2020.

The United Way of Northern Arizona is a big part of our county’s VTO effort. County employees using VTO can volunteer at public or non-profit schools within the county, at non-profit groups that are partners with the county, or at one of the more than 30 non-profit organizations receiving funding from United Way.

I encourage you to check out the United Way of Northern Arizona’s website ( to find out how you too can help improve our community by donating money or offering to volunteer – or both! FBN

By Cynthia Seelhammer

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