Leaders of the multimillion-dollar Combined Federal Campaign charity drive have marked Nov. 23 on their calendars. But they are not sure whether that day will mean a victory luncheon for fund-raisers, or orders to return to the trenches to solicit more donations from the area's 345,000 civil servants.
The month-old CFC, which raised more than $13 million here in 1981 and a total of $87 million nationwide for charities, is running scared this year!
CFC officials are quietly worried that federal worker unhappiness with the Reagan administration, and the addition of some controversial new mouths to feed to the list of 120 participating charities may turn normally generous U.S. workers off the fund drive.
They've been turned off before.
During the 1979 CFC campaign, more than 30,000 Washington area workers who had given the year before said "no" to the CFC. Officials believe the mini-boycott, which cut overall fund-raising revenues $5,000, was due primarily to President Carter's requirement that feds pay to park.
This year the CFC picture is more complicated and potentially much darker.
Three unions with more than 400,000 federal worker members -- the National Treasury Employes Union, Letter Carriers and Machinists -- have urged members around the nation to boycott the CFC and give directly to charities of their choice.
The unions are bitter because the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation is participating in the CFC. They believe the foundation is anti-union. It is one of 60 new groups -- which run the political and ideological spectrum -- added to the CFC this year.
Some other newcomers include the National Right to Life Educational Trust Fund, Vietnam Veterans Foundation of America, National Black Media Coalition, African Medical and Research Foundation, American Near East Refugee Aid and Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. The Office of Personnel Management said it had to allow such groups into the CFC because of a court order that opened the doors for many organizations that are not traditional-type charities.
CFC brass are concerned about any boycott because it could cut into payroll deductions, which raise the most money. The typical payroll deduction pledge is $85, while the typical non-payroll gift is $25.
"We think we shook the tree pretty well in 1979" during the boycott to protest pay parking, a CFC official said. "Most of the people who did not give that year were people who had pledged relatively small amounts" in the past.
He said that last year, despite the smallest federal pay raise since 1966 and RIF (reduction in force) jitters among workers, the Washington area CFC campaign actually exceeded its goal by about $200,000.
To reassure workers who fear their CFC pledges might go to groups they oppose, this year's campaign urges workers to designate their contributions.
OPM Director Donald Devine says all designated pledges will go only to the groups earmarked to receive them.
Last week, OPM officials were busy putting out a number of brush fires that could cut into ongoing CFC campaigns in other cities. They contacted a newspaper in Washington state, for example, which had urged its federal readers to boycott the CFC and send money directly to the charity of their choice. "The paper didn't understand about the designation-pledge policy," said OPM spokesman Patrick Korten, "and we were trying to get the word to them that the money will go where people want it to go and nowhere else."
During the late 1960s, when many federal workers complained of arm-twisting to donate, participation in the CFC here was about 90 percent. Last year about 60 percent of the area's government workers contributed to the CFC.
Officials believe that within a few weeks they will have a pretty good idea whether employes are giving as usual, or if the controversy over the participants in this year's CFC is cutting into fund-raising.