Annual Federal Charity Drive Launches With Tempered Expectations

elisekurenbina/Shutterstock.com

The Combined Federal Campaign -- the 52nd annual federal employee charity drive -- kicked into gear this week, hoping to reverse the recent trend of decreasing donations and participation. But the fundraiser comes during an ongoing pay freeze and the mandatory furloughs of hundreds of thousands of workers.

Elaine Kaplan, acting director of the Office of Personnel Management -- which administers the CFC -- sent a memorandum to human resources representatives across government, spelling out tips to encourage employees and managers to play their part in making the 2013 campaign a success. Kaplan suggested playing up the ability to spread out donations over the entire year, the ease of giving online and the message CFC sends to Americans about the benevolence of federal employees. Managers should encourage their employees to not just donate but volunteer on the operational side of the campaign, she said.

“The CFC would not be successful without the administrative support of federal employees at each department/agency,” Kaplan wrote in a suggested message for managers to send to the rank-and-file.

At the Defense Department, officials recognized the difficulty of asking the workforce to donate after a majority of civilians -- about 650,000 -- were forced to take six days of unpaid leave.

“This is a funny year,” Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said at a CFC kickoff event at the Pentagon. “I was thinking about, ‘Ash, how can you ask our people once again to make a contribution this year after all you've been through, after all we're put through personally and institutionally at this particular time?’ It's a good, good question. We've had furloughs, which are a terrible thing, terrible thanks for the country to give to people who are giving so much already to the country by what they do all day.”

He added: “But I dare to ask, and I'm confident you'll come through because of what the DoD family is.”

Despite his confidence, the campaign has reduced its goal for the department’s national capital region. In 2012, the Defense personnel in the D.C. area donated $15.3 million; in 2013, the goal is $12.5 million.

“We are hoping to exceed that,” Carter said, “but we thought we need to be realistic about it.”

In 2012, 848,000 federal employees donated $258 million to the CFC, down from the 959,000 feds who gave $272 million in 2011. The 2012 haul was the lowest total since 2004.

OPM in April proposed 13 changes to improve the charity drive, though the suggestions have not yet gone into effect. Proposals included moving the solicitation period back a month to include the holiday period, creating a disaster relief program to allow employees to donate within hours of a catastrophe and building a new oversight structure that will consolidate Local Federal Coordinating Committees into regional ones.

(Image via elisekurenbina/Shutterstock.com)

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