The Combined Federal Campaign of the National Capital Area, the federal government’s annual charitable giving drive, kicked off Wednesday with a $67.2 million goal for 2011.

The campaign, created by President John F. Kennedy in 1961, celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. It supports more than 4,000 local, national and internationally approved charities, according to organizers.

In a memo to agency leaders, Personnel Director John Berry acknowledged the economic challenges many federal workers will face in donating this year.

“I certainly understand that all of us are stretched for resources,” Berry wrote, urging agencies to allow their employees to donate their time promoting the campaign.

Berry also encouraged agency heads to focus less on the amount of money their employees donate and more on expanding the government’s base of donors. He also urged top officials to work harder than usual to encourage giving to make up for anticipated losses in donations because of retirements.

The program runs from Sept. 1 to Dec. 15. Federal civilian, military and postal employees gave $67 million in 2010. The effort is managed by Global Impact, which handles charitable donations for some major U.S. corporations and other workplace fundraising efforts.