The federal government's annual charity drive would limit the number and types of organizations eligible to receive contributions to the drive by federal workers, according to new Combined Federal Campaign regulations proposed by the Office of Personnel Management.
Although the precise effect of the OPM proposal was unclear yesterday, spokesmen for some groups said they were concerned that the regulations would curb or end fund-raising efforts of groups that serve as advocates in class-action suits, and organizations set up to help blacks and women.
The regulations, published today in the Federal Register, would give the United Way greater control in distributing millions of dollars raised annually through solicitation of charitable contributions. Last year, the campaign raised $87 million, $12 million of which was collected from federal workers in the Washington area.
The regulations also would encourage federal workers to earmark their contributions for use by specific organizations, rather than make what are called "undesignated" donations that are then distributed among many participating groups.
The OPM proposal--intended to implement a CFC executive order signed by President Reagan in March--had not yet been seen yesterday by many of the groups expected to be affected. And those few that did have copies of the 57-page document were still studying it to determine how it might apply to them.
OPM director Donald J. Devine praised the proposed regulations as setting up a charity system that gives federal workers "a wide choice" of groups to which they may contribute while restricting CFC participation to agencies "which truly serve the needy."
"Not all nonprofit activities are charitable, and precise rules were needed to establish which fall into this category and which do not," Devine said.
Devine said the new regulations, a source of controversy in and outside his agency for months, should help the CFC have "the best year ever." But his glowing forecast was quickly disputed by representatives of groups who said the proposals would curtail fund-raising efforts by the campaign in general and by specific groups in particular.
"You're going to see a spate of lawsuits on this thing," warned Robert Bothwell, executive director of the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, a group that is trying to expand the number of groups eligible to participate in the CFC fund drive. He said opening up the CFC drive to a greater variety of groups in 1981 had resulted in a 30 percent increase in the average contribution compared with the 1979-80 drive.
Bothwell said sections of the proposed new guidelines discriminate against newer national organizations, which will have to meet tougher eligibility criteria, and against some 300 independent local groups, which, he said, would have to join the United Way to raise money through the CFC.
Some black self-help groups also would have to drop out of the fund drive, Bothwell said, because they won't be able to meet an OPM requirement that they provide a service "in all or most of the states." Class advocacy groups would also be affected because under a new OPM requirement they may not provide a direct service to individuals.
Richard Leary, director of the International Service Agencies, a group of overseas health and welfare organizations, said he was especially disappointed because the proposed regulations would deny his group and others "a voice in the development of fund-raising material and pledge cards." He also complained that it would now be up to the United Way, which gets the lion's share of CFC funds, to determine how to divide money that is not designated for a specific charity.
The regulations require a 30-day "public comment" period before OPM can put them into effect. It will be up to Devine to issue the list of organizations eligible to participate in the 1983 campaign.