THE COMBINED FEDERAL Campaign, T which raised more than $88 million last year in government offices for charities, is including for the first time in its annual drive three organizations that have been in the vanguard of feminist legal efforts to improve conditions of American women.

Their inclusion follows court suits and congressional hearings that were critical of the Combined Federal Campaign and United Way, its chief beneficiary, on the grounds that they tended to raise funds for more established charities to the exclusion of organizations responding to the emerging needs of women and minorities. The opening of the Combined Federal Campaign and United Way to these nontraditional charities -- organizations that provide not just direct services, but counseling and advocacy for women as well -- could have far reaching effects on the abilities of chronically impoverished women's organizations to raise funds.

Last year, the Women's Legal Defense Fund was able to raise $61,000 through the Combined Federal Campaign here to help abused women in Washington. Fifty percent of that money went to operating My Sister's Place, a shelter for battered women and their children, and 50 percent helped finance counseling for about 2,500 women on family and credit law problems but stopped short of actual legal assistance. In addition to the Women's Legal Defense fund, the drive this year will also include on its list of charities the National Organization for Women's Legal Defense and Education Fund and Federally Employed Women's Legal Defense and Education Fund. These are among 13 national service agencies who are not members of United Way and donors must specifically designate them to receive their contribution.

A leader in the fight to open up United Way and the Combined Federal Campaign to new charities has been the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, which represents such groups as the National Women's Health Network, the Brown Lung Association, the Sierra Club Legal Defense and Education Fund, the National Conference of Puerto Rican Women and the Consumer Federation of America. "Women's groups have a natural constituency within work places," says Tim Saasta, assistant director of the committee, "and that means when these funds are organized they can go to women within various work places and get them to ask their employers for the right to give to this women's group. Once they get that right it is more likely a woman is going to give to a woman's organization . . . There are women within work places who understand the need for women's organizations, for shelters, for job counselling organizations, rape crisis organizations, and they'll support them. Very few women's organizations who are meeting the needs that have become obvious recently are funded by United Way."

"We are not a bit opposed to those groups obtaining access to the Combined Federal Campaign," says Steve Delfin, director of media relations for United Way, who bristles at criticism that United Way short-changes women's organizations. "People don't realize that an organization like the YWCA, which is labeled as an old-time agency is one of the leading advocates of some of the more innovative and more contemporary social welfare services," he says. "I'm thinking in terms of programs for single parents, credit counselling, rape crisis counselling."

Nevertheless, nontraditional charities are moving to take advantage of work place fund-raising, which raises more money from more people at less expense than such other forms of solicitation as direct mail. The National Black United Fund, which is included in the national United Way drive for the first time this year, has gained access to the work places at Bell Laboratories and IBM in New York, according to Saasta. In Philadelphia, an organization called Women's Way last year raised $117,000 through United Way for rape crisis centers, a family planning center and a group to help women in transition. A similar women's fund is being started in New York.

About $47 billion is raised each year for charities in the United States from individuals, corporations and private foundations. A Ford Foundation study found that less than 1 percent of the $2 billion given by private foundations in 1976 went to women's programs. Congress, which last year killed a bill that would have provided $60 million for shelters for battered women, is unlikely now to fund new programs helping women, which means they are going to be more dependent than ever on charity to succeed.

The Combined Federal Campaign goes through Nov. 20. The United Way drive ends Dec. 4. In the past, only a third of the contributions have been designated, but with the new premium on charity dollars it is all the more important for donors to explore the merits of both old and new organizations in the fund drives and to give where they believe their contributions can do the most good.