Overhaul of federal charity drive proposed

The government plans to overhaul its annual internal charity drive, affecting policies ranging from how charities are admitted to the program to how and when employees may make contributions.

US Office of Personnel Management Seal

Rules set for publication Monday by the Office of Personnel Management generally follow recommendations made last year by a commission that studied the Combined Federal Campaign on its 50th anniversary.

The CFC is the official workplace charity drive for federal employees and military personnel, consisting of 184 localized campaigns. In addition  to regular donations, it also is the vehicle for special solicitations such as one conducted last fall for Hurricane Sandy relief.

Among other changes, the proposed regulations would:

  • Start and end the annual solicitation one month later, so that it would run from Oct. 1 to Jan. 15
  • Allow newly hired employees to begin participating immediately instead of waiting until the next solicitation period begins
  • Create a standing authority for special solicitations so that they could begin immediately after a disaster or other emergency occurs
  • Manage the campaign on a regional rather than a localized basis
  • Require all donations to be made electronically
  • Have certain overhead costs paid from the charities’ application fees rather than from donor contributions
  • Streamline the process of applying for charities that previously have been accepted and reduce the auditing requirements on smaller charities

“These steps follow through on CFC 50 Commission’s excellent recommendations for strengthening the CFC,” OPM Director John Berry said in a statement. “Getting one hundred percent of an employee’s donations to go to the charity they choose focuses energy on the CFC’s core purpose.”

In responding to an earlier draft of the rules, representatives of several charities expressed concerns with the potential impact of some of the changes. For example, several said that while electronic donations are cheaper to process, some current donors paying by check might stop donating. Consolidating management into a regional structure also could risk lower contributions through losing the local spirit of the campaigns, they said.

OPM’s statement said that it “remains committed to ensuring the participation of a variety of charities in the CFC, and to preserving the local character, sense of community, and employee involvement that has been a hallmark of the CFC.”

Donations to the CFC totaled nearly $273 million in 2011, down from nearly $282 million in 2010. The figure for 2012 is not yet available.

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Eric Yoder · April 5, 2013