Despite a late start, union boycotts, a controversial list of clients and predictions of pledge-card backlash, the government's one-shot charity drive here has raised$14 million so far--more than it raised last year, even though fewer people put something in the pot.

Officials of the Combined Federal Campaign, which raises money in this area for nearly 300 charities and service groups, say the number of givers this year is down about 11,000 from 1982.

One reason for the drop in participation is that there are about 10,000 fewer federal employes in metropolitan Washington than there were in 1982. Many workers said they couldn't afford to give, and some flatly refused because they didn't want to make their agencies or this administration look good.

Many feds are ticked off because of the 4 percent pay raise, retirement benefit cuts, furloughs and RIFs that have slimmed government here to just over 340,000 civilian workers.

The number of groups participating in the CFC has grown in recent years because of court rulings that said the government had to place a broader interpretation on who came under the fund-drive umbrella. Liberal-leaning organizations that came into the charity drive several years ago were joined this year by conservative legal defense funds, considered anathema by many federal workers.

Although the Office of Personnel Management said that none of the groups would get money not specifically designated to them by donors, many feds didn't get the word or else didn't believe it.

CFC boycotts were called by the National Treasury Employes Union and the National Association of Letter Carriers. Both unions were angered by inclusion in the drive this year of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Fund, which they consider antiunion.

Some Interior Department aides say the $75 average gift level there might have been higher had some conservation groups, who are after Secretary James Watt's hide, been on the CFC list.

CFC brass say the average donation rose from $59.60 in 1982 to $64.25 this year.

"We had some hairy moments at places like the Bureau of Engraving and Printing and the Government Printing Office," one fund-raiser said, explaining that many craft workers at the two giant plants, which produce government publications and U.S. currency, "were not in a happy mood about the campaign, or this administration."

Contributions to the CFC varied widely, depending on the size of the agency, its average salary and the views of its workers. The average gift at the White House, for example was $100.

Department of Energy staffers kicked in an average of $99.42, while at the Justice Department the typical donation was $47.17 as of the mid-November totals. Air Force and Navy personnel, both civilian and military, typically kicked in just over $55 each, while the Army's average gift was $47.

The State Department was among the more gung-ho, with an average gift of $94.17, while the Office of Management and Budget, with a high percentage of middle- and upper-level workers, put nearly everybody to shame, averaging $115.72 per employe.

Health and Human Services workers, who have been hard hit by RIFs and reorganizations in the past two years, pledged $66.87 on average. The U.S. Postal Service average in this area was just over $52.

The largest average gifts tended to come from relatively small organizations, where $150 or more per person was standard. These include such places as the Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations the Farm Credit Administration; Federal Labor Relations Authority; National Credit Union Administration; National Gallery of Art; ACTION (what is left of it); Administrative Conference of the U.S.; and many other small units.

The average gift of Senate employes was $100; while their House colleagues managed only $73.33 at the time of the mid-November reckoning.

One of the best scorecards, we are told, was at the Central Intelligence Agency, whose (classified) workers surpassed their goal of $307,000, thanks to the help of (classified) CFC keymen, and where each worker gave an average gift of (classified) dollars and (classified) cents.