Federal charity drive urged to get online

CFC advisory panel debates merits of Web presence versus in-person connections.

The Combined Federal Campaign should develop a unified Web presence, members of the charity drive's advisory panel recommended this week.

Some federal workers already make online donations through their local CFC chapter websites, but the program lacks a main website and only a few centers have local sites.

Several members of the CFC advisory panel, which was established this year as part of the federal charity drive's 50th anniversary, said moving online would reduce costs, increase access and target younger donors. In addition, more Web-based access could help consolidate campaigns, which also would cut costs.

Many panel members pushed back, however, saying that pledge forms were still successful. Several panelists noted that face-to-face connection is the key to bringing in donations. They noted that reducing the number of campaign centers would lower costs, but this would result in a drop in donations.

CFC broke donation records in 2010, and its National Capital Area chapter recently reported it had raised $35 million, toward the $67.2 million it wants to raise by the end of the month.

Still, members of the panel -- comprised of federal employees, campaign administrators and representatives from charitable organizations -- agreed there is plenty of room for improvement and growth in the program.

"Right off the bat, glaring in our face is that new hires do not know about the CFC," said commission member Karissa DeCarlo, a federal employee. "The No. 1 reason people don't give is because they weren't asked."

The panel members also discussed reducing the number of charities included in the CFC listing and making application requirements stricter for charities. Although roughly 25,000 local and national organizations are represented, 80 percent of the donations go to 20 percent of the charities.

Other possible suggestions included establishing a program to target federal and military retirees and allowing for universal giving, which would allow donors to give to the charity of their choice. Such changes likely would require legislative action or regulatory change. A recommendation to extend the donation deadline, which currently ends Dec. 31, to mid-January was well-received by the panel.

The commission's deadline for reporting recommendations to Office of Personnel Management director John Berry is March 31. Before then, the group will work to consolidate its recommendations, in time for its third and final meeting in San Antonio.

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