OPM Implements Obama Order Authorizing Volunteer Contributions to Combined Federal Campaign

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The Office of Personnel Management late last week issued guidance for implementation of an Obama era executive order expanding participation in the federal government’s annual charity giving drive to include volunteerism.

In a memo to agencies on Friday, OPM Director Jeff Pon formalized new rules that volunteer hours given by federal employees should be monetized and put “on equal footing” with traditional financial pledges during the annual Combined Federal Campaign. He also offered guidance for how officials can organize and encourage participation in agency-wide volunteer efforts.

Some elements of Obama’s 2016 executive order already were implemented for last year’s CFC. In 2017, federal workers were for the first time able to make non-monetary pledges and federal retirees were given the opportunity to make contributions through their annuities.

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The memo stressed that volunteer hours contributed to charities through the CFC should be workers’ own, unpaid time, not duty hours. But Pon encouraged agencies to develop volunteer activities to help improve workforce morale.

“Research shows that volunteer activities are more likely to boost employee morale than other agency-sponsored team building activities,” he wrote. “Therefore, when appropriate, OPM invites federal agencies to explore opportunities to assist organizations and teams with coordinating volunteer team-building activities with CFC-participating charities.”

Volunteer hours contributed to charities through the fundraising effort will count toward agencies’ campaign results, although they will be reported separately from traditional financial contributions, Pon wrote.

In a companion document, OPM officials said agency participation in volunteer work through the campaign can have a number of benefits, including an enhanced reputation with the public, which could improve recruitment. Volunteering can also provide opportunities for training in leadership and communication skills, OPM said.

OPM offered agency leaders a variety of tips for choosing a group volunteer activity, and stressed that officials must use “a fair and open selection process when coordinating volunteer activities.”

Officials wishing to set up group volunteer activities must engage with workers and work collaboratively to choose the charity that will benefit. OPM offered a number of sample questions to guide that process, including the number of people interested, how far employees would be willing to travel, and the cause for which the team is “the most passionate.”

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