United Way loses federal charity campaign bid

An Alexandria, Va.-based nonprofit group on Tuesday won the bid to administer the National Capital Area Combined Federal Campaign for 2003, ending the United Way's 25-year reign over the annual fundraising event.

Global Impact, formerly known as International Service Agencies (ISA), is "thrilled" to be in charge of the campaign this year, President and Chief Executive Officer Renee Acosta said. Global Impact distributes donations to more than 50 U.S.-based international charities and has administered a fundraising campaign for overseas Defense Department employees since 1996.

The 16-member panel of federal workers in charge of selecting a CFC administrator chose Global Impact partly because of its excellent track record running the Defense Department campaign, according to panel chairman Vincent Micone. That campaign, called CFC-Overseas, is the second largest fundraiser in the federal workplace, after the National Capital Area CFC.

About 180,000 civil servants participated in the 2002 capital area CFC campaign, established 31 years ago to pool informal solicitations at federal agencies into one large charity drive. Civil servants raised more than $47 million in 2002, and $50 million in 2001.

The CFC-Overseas campaign that Global Impact administered yielded $11.2 million last year from 92,000 donors. In the seven years the nonprofit group presided over CFC-Overseas, revenue increased by 64 percent, according to a statement released Tuesday. Under Global Impact, CFC-Overseas outperformed the average CFC in key areas including the number of eligible employees participating and the average amount each donor contributed, the statement said.

Experience coordinating the CFC-Overseas campaign will put Global Impact in a good position to organize the capital area CFC, Acosta said. The Defense campaign was not nearly as large as the nationwide CFC fundraiser, but was equally challenging because it involved coordinating overseas workers, she explained. She said that she is not surprised Global Impact won the CFC contract over tough competitors like the Central Maryland United Way, because she felt the selection panel created a "level playing field" and took her group's "really solid proposal" seriously.

The National Capital Area United Way withdrew its bid to run the 2003 CFC in mid-February to spend a year focusing on reorganization and recover from recent financial troubles.

Robert Egger, interim chief executive officer of the National Capital Area United Way, hoped the Central Maryland United Way would win the contract this year and that the D.C. chapter could return to running the federal charity campaign for the 2004-2005 season. In a February interview, he said he expected the Maryland chapter to be a top contender for the contract.

The Central Maryland United Way did not return calls for comment on losing the bid to run CFC.

Following allegations of management problems at the National Capital Area United Way, OPM Director Kay Coles James, Del. Eleanor Homes Norton, D-D.C., and Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, expressed concern about what impact the nonprofit organization's alleged mismanagement would have on the federal campaign.

"It is our responsibility as administrators of the Combined Federal Campaign to ensure that the management of CFC funds, at all levels, meets with the high standards expected by those generous federal employees who participate annually in CFC campaigns," James wrote in a September memo to CFC heads. "Nothing less than total accountability and transparency is needed to maintain the trust of donors and the stability of the program."

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