Your Government’s Annual Charity Drive

Your Government’s Annual Charity Drive
The Combined Federal Campaign
  ‘Opinion’ – Sheri de Grom

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.

Declining campaign receipts brought about the CFC-50 Commission on the fiftieth anniversary of the program.

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?

About Sheri de Grom

Retired Fed/JAG, 5 yrs. on Capitol Hill. Former book buyer for B and N. Concerned citizen of military drawdown. Currently involved in mental healthcare reform, health care strategist and actively pursuing legislative change wherein dual retirees are exempt from enrolling in Medicare at their own discretion without losing tertiary healthcare benefits. Monitor and comment on Federal Register proposed legislation involving Mental Health, Veterans Affairs, Health and Human Services, Medicare and rural libraries. Licensed OSHA Inspector to include Super Fund sites. Full time caregive to Vietnam era veteran. Conceptualized, investigated possible alternatives, authored, lobbied for, and successfully implemented Title X, Section 1095 (known as the Third Party Collection Program of Federal Insurance).
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10 Responses to Your Government’s Annual Charity Drive

  1. Marji Laine says:

    I had no idea about the CFC, but I remember being forced, well heavily urged, to give to United Way when I taught in public school. My frustration stemmed from “Why them?” with so many deserving charities desperately needing assistance. Hubby and I gave over and above already, then were expected to give not only from my paycheck, but also from his. Well, the rebel in me just refused after the first couple of years. Not because I didn’t like the charity, but because I was told I had to give. Giving is a willing act, not a forced one.

    • Yes, CFC operates in many ways like the United Way. Both my husband and I had our own charities we participated in and then to have someone else badger us into signing on the dotted line made me angry. It was something we felt we had to do until we retired because of the hidden pressure – but we’re both happy to participate with free will once again.

  2. Most of my giving involves my tithes, and I certainly don’t want Big Brother dictating that. Actually, I didn’t know the government was involved in raising charitable funds. Just the thought is sorta scary.

  3. Betty Bolte says:

    I used to be a civil servant in the 1980s and was expected to give, which I did though I didn’t have much to give at that time. As a contractor, we were still included in the announcements for CFC giving, prompting contractors to also contribute through our companies. After the recent layoffs at NASA in the last few years with the ending of the Constellation Program and Ares Projects, the Center actually increased the expected $$ amount to be reached but with about 1800 fewer employees. There wasn’t a whole lot of willingness to reach that higher goal apparently — they had to keep prodding with multiple emails and management “encouragement” — but what do you expect when so many talented and highly educated people were let go through no fault of their own? So I’ve seen both sides of this issue and totally agree with your assessment. What we give and to whom is a personal choice and shouldn’t be an expectation. Thanks for the terrific post!

    • Thanks for stopping in Betty. It’s always nice to hear from someone who’s been in the ‘same shoes.’ Like you, I had some years when I didn’t have much to give – especially when my husband was unable to work and I was the wage earner for the two of us and his two teen daughters. It didn’t matter that I was making a good salary. Life took every penny. I’m all too familiar with that poking and prodding you mentioned and I was expected to do the same to my staff. Your company must have been the exception to the rule for government contractors.

  4. Laurie – It’s so true. We each have our own unique gifts that we can pass on to make this planet a better place for all of us. I know I feel better when I give back – I simply don’t want someone telling me what I ‘have’ to do.

  5. booklaurie says:

    I’m always amazed at how many ways there are to give, and how many of them (like my husband’s troubled-youth mentoring or my friend’s dog-rescue work) I’d absolutely hate doing…while she’d hate narrating for the blind, which I love.

    But the fact that there ARE so many ways, from writing a check to volunteering time & energy, is a great thing — we can all choose what we like best, and know somebody else will be taking care of other needs in ways we can’t stand to do.

  6. Very interesting post – again, Sheri. I always hated it when the office would have it’s annual charity drive and we were “expected” to give. I pick and choose my charitable contributions and it’s one of those very personal things people do. When I receive calls asking for money and such, then feel bad when I say “no”, I resent it. I DO give tons of money every year to charities, but no one should “tell” me which to contribute to.

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