Federal agencies have been told they may solicit contributions from federal workers for victims of Hurricane Sandy outside the government's normal charity drive.

"Many federal employees have expressed a desire to assist those in need in the region affected by this storm," Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry said in a government-wide memo Friday. "As such, I am authorizing department and agency heads to allow a special solicitation of federal employees at the workplace to support the victims of this disaster."

It will be up to agencies to decide whether to conduct such collections, choose which charity or charities will receive the donations, and arrange with the charities to provide receipts to the donors. OPM referred agencies to a Federal Emergency Management Agency list of organizations that provide disaster relief.

Donations can be made with cash or check; because the solicitation is outside the normal Combined Federal Campaign structure, they cannot be made through payroll withholding to a CFC charity the employee chooses. "However, contributions made through the CFC after the special solicitation is over will assist these organizations in replenishing resources expended on this disaster as well as helping with rebuilding and preparing for future needs," the memo said.

The solicitation ends Nov. 21.

Meanwhile, several federal employee organizations have urged their members to donate to the Federal Employee Education and Assistance Fund, which is making disaster grants of up to $500 for employees experiencing personal hardship due to the storm.