Uncle Sam’s annual giving campaign launches Sept. 1

CFC - 50 Commission holds its inaugural meeting on September 13, 2011. CFC - 50 Commission holds its inaugural meeting on September 13, 2011. OPM

The government’s annual campaign to raise money for charities kicks off Sept. 1, on the heels of a recent report suggesting wide-ranging changes to the 51-year-old program.

[Related Poll: How charitable are you feeling?]

Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry sent a memorandum to agencies encouraging them to allow employees to serve as coordinators and leaders during the 2012 Combined Federal Campaign, which runs from Sept. 1 through Dec. 15. Berry reminded agencies that since the campaign is a federal program, “it is not appropriate to place these employees on leave or make employees take leave to administer the CFC within your agency.” The CFC has 184 geographic regions throughout the country and abroad.

OPM last summer asked former Reps. Beverly Byron, D-Md., and Tom Davis, R-Va., to lead a commission recommending improvements to the CFC, which has raised $7 billion for charities chosen by feds since its creation in 1961. The panel suggested CFC expand the campaign’s donor pool, increase the fundraising campaign’s transparency, extend the deadline for giving, use more technology to reduce costs and streamline the overall program, and create a voluntary disaster relief fund that donors can contribute to immediately after a disaster.

“As is occurring in so many areas of our lives, the Combined Federal Campaign is being challenged as never before by innovative technologies and ever newer ways for Americans to support charities in their communities and around the world,” Davis and Byron wrote in their report. “With these challenges, however, come major opportunities to help donors understand and support not-for-profit groups, to streamline administration operations, and allow a wider circle of potential donors to donate through this long-standing program.”

In his memo to agencies, Berry said the commission’s recommendations are “actively under consideration.”

OPM’s inspector general in March released an audit of the Washington-area CFC, which found more than $300,000 in questionable expenses. Some of the money went toward overcharges for food, travel and other campaign expenses, the audit said. As a result of that report, OPM prohibited spending donations on meals, travel or entertainment. In light of the IG’s audit, the commission also recommended that OPM improve its oversight of the CFC program and reduce certain costs associated with it.

In 2011, federal employees pledged more than $272 million to charities, according to OPM. That’s roughly $10 million less than the amount raised in 2010 and 2009.

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