Another Likely Blow to Nonprofits: DOD Suspends its Participation in the Combined Federal Campaign

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October 14, 2013;


Due to the shutdown, the Department of Defense suspended its domestic participation in the Combined Federal Campaign (CFC), which was scheduled to run from September 1st to December 15th. The memo announcing the action is here.

The CFC is essentially the equivalent of United Way for federal workers, providing a way for them to donate easily to thousands of charities through payroll deduction. Pentagon officials decided that it was not a covered activity under the Pay Our Military Act, which reinstated 90 percent of the DOD workers who had been furloughed by the shutdown.

“Upon legal review, (CFC) activities are not excepted from furlough nor are they appropriate activities under the Pay Our Military Act,” Susan Yarwood, human resources director with Washington Headquarters Services, wrote in a memo to DOD workers. “Until such a time we have a Continuing Resolution or congressionally-approved appropriations, please postpone all CFC events, training and fund-raisers.”

Earlier this year, NPQ reported that both participation and revenues had dropped from 2011 to 2012 and that “uniformed personnel had the highest participation rates in last year’s charity drive. Nearly 475,000 military personnel—or 21.8 percent of those solicited—contributed to the 2012 campaign. There were 276,818 employees at other federal agencies who contributed, along with 96,620 members of the U.S Postal Service.” So, in short, most of the donors to the campaign would be employed under the DOD, and the DOD’s action may, in fact, have significant effects on the overall campaign and on the nonprofits it funds, unless the shutdown is resolved soon.

The CFC has not been suspended at other federal agencies, and paycheck deductions that DOD employees have already scheduled will continue to be made.—Ruth McCambridge

  • A Reader Concerned About the Whole Story

    Dear Ruth,

    Hardly a complete picture you have painted for your readers.

    Your “sensational” report meant to alarm charities failed to mention that during the suspension DoD personnel (military and civilian) could still turn in a pledge on a newly developed e-giving platform introduced by DFAS this fall. And now that the government is back, the campaign resumed. A one-week suspension in a three-month period of campaign activities is hardly a “blow to nonprofits.”

    Furthermore, the CFC is far greater a campaign than United Way. There is no way that it is “essentially equivalent to United Way.” First,, Federal donors exercise control of how their gift is used. There is no secret committee making grant decisions with dubious studies of community need. Second, United Way bars other federations from competing with it head-to-head in the workplace campaigns. It often imposes draconian minimum pledges and excessive fees. They actively try to limit the private sector campaign to its hand picked local charities. Your characterization is very misleading because the CFC includes more than 20,000 qualified local, national and international charities. Donors in the private sector who have ONLY a United Way campaign only have a select group of local charities. There are no environmental groups, arts groups, national health charities, international service charities and no advocacy groups. Plus, small local charities represented by groups like Community Shares and Community Health Charities that are banned by United Way can get into the CFC.

    Please be more precise in future reports.