The State of the Combined Federal Campaign in 2014

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February 5, 2014; Washington Post

In July of 2013, President Obama issued a statement related to his heightened effort to increase government efficiency, stating “I met with all my Cabinet, including the new Cabinet members, some of whom have extraordinary experience, and I directed the Cabinet to develop an aggressive management agenda that delivers a smarter, more innovative and more accountable government for its citizens.”

Heeding this call, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has in its efficiency sights on the Combined Federal Campaign (CFC), a program that funnels donations from federal employees to charities. In 2012, nearly 850,000 federal workers contributed to the CFC. OPM Director Katherine Archuleta stated about the CFC that revisions “are being issued in order to strengthen the integrity, streamline the operations, and increase the effectiveness of the program to ensure its continued growth and success.”

The CFC has experienced a significant decline in donations, moving from $283 million in 2009 to $258 million in 2012. The numbers for 2013 will be released in the spring, but there are fears that the decline will continue, delivering a number that’s potentially below $200 million. According to one article, the reasoning behind the drop in donations could be due to the sinking morale within the federal government.

Outside of the decline in CFC numbers, charity leaders are finding themselves challenged with the recent OPM changes. Federal employees have been subject to a three-year freeze on basic pay rates that has just concluded. Approximately 200,000 wage grade workers didn’t get the one-percent hike that other federal employees received and a number of federal employees suffered through a pay cut via unpaid furlough days in 2013. In a related article, Labor Department policy analyst Bruce Andersen states “When I was deciding to make my CFC contribution this year, I had to take into account that I took a 5 percent pay cut last year. I still gave, but I did scale back a bit to reflect the fact that I lost pay this year.”

Outside of the challenges of the federal worker and their declining ability to donate, charity leaders are also having problems with the new CFC changes by OPM. One proposed change would disallow federal workers from contributing cash through the program. Community Health Charities of America President and CEO Thomas Bognanno believes that “eliminating cash contributions will hurt because organizations know not to ‘tell the donor what to give, how to give.’” Bognanno, along with other charity leaders, has issued a letter to OPM, but they have not heard a response and are awaiting the final regulations when they are published by the federal government—John Brothers