The Combined Federal Campaign (CFC) is the United States government’s annual charity drive. Established in 1961, the CFC is the largest workplace charity campaign in the USA and the only campaign authorized to solicit contributions from federal employees and active duty military in the workplace.
An unwritten rule prevailed during my civilian federal career and my husband’s military career. We would contribute the appropriate amount to the CFC campaign—no questions asked.
Additionally, if a commander didn’t get everyone to participate in the CFC, it was understood the commander’s performance was not one hundred percent proficient.
While I’ve always believed in charitable giving, I also believe it’s an individual’s right to decide: when, where, and how.
In researching the administrative expenses of the CFC during the twenty years I participated, I discovered almost half of my contribution went to administrating and promoting the program. I wanted my money to go where it did the most good—not for more lobbyists in Congress.
The commission made the following recommendations as reported by The Federal Times:
1. Expand collections to federal and military retirees.
2. Extend the campaign season a month. This allows an employee to consider their new pay scale and benefit costs when deciding how much to give.
3. The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) must increase donor participation, strengthen the campaign’s infrastructure, and increase transparency and accountability.
4. Open CFC contributions to federal contractors.
My husband and I chuckled over the recommendation to open the campaign to federal and military retirees. We were once ‘required’ to participate. Now, we make our own independent choices about charitable giving and the volunteering of our time. We live in a community where we want our money and time to do the most good, i.e., a specific Ronald McDonald House that once extended a place for my father to stay in exchange for his telling stories to children and otherwise assisting young families. This charity gave him a safe place to stay and socialize while my mother was critically ill. I don’t want to give to a larger foundation. I want to give to that specific Ronald McDonald House that made life easier for my father. There’s also a not-for-profit Hospice and a special lending library for the blind and—I can’t forget—books for rural libraries in Kansas that needed funding.
Item number two is interesting and would be satirical if it weren’t downright sad. If the CFC campaign is extended a month, and federal civilians and the military see their pay and benefits shrink further and further, the commission might be better off counting on the generosity of the current Dec. 15 closing date and hope for Christmas goodwill. I wouldn’t count on receiving more money in January, if I were the CFC.
The final report released by the commission on July 27, 2012, and headed by former Reps. Tom Davis, R-VA, and Beverly Byron, D-MD, stated as in number three above: The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) must increase participation. How is this possible? Will they hold up step-increases for civilian employees? They can’t. Congress has already taken care of that with no pay raises. And, the OPM has no influence within the DoD at all.
Additionally, how can the OPM strengthen the infrastructure of the CFC when the infrastructure of the Office of Personnel Management is one of the biggest government mysteries to civilian government employees?
As for increasing transparency—I refer you to the above paragraph.
I do like suggestion four. Government contractors and their employees should be held to the same standards as military and civilian employees. Contractors are paid with taxpayers’ money and often there’s a large profit margin. Certainly a percentage of that money could go to the Combined Federal Program.
Another positive proposal set forth is to have the charity receiving the donated monies pay a fee for participating. This would help off-set some of the administrative costs. While this is a good suggestion, the commission did not offer specific guidelines.
In closing, the Combined Federal Campaign has relied on active duty military and civilian government employees for its very survival. I believe the Combined Campaign, while a good one, must be removed as a stronghold tactic. I much prefer to give freely when my heart believes in the purpose to which I’m contributing.
How about you? How do you like to make a difference?