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Panel proposes overhaul of CFC

Jul. 30, 2012 - 01:13PM   |  
By STEPHEN LOSEY   |   Comments
In its final report, the CFC-50 Commission - headed by former Reps. Tom Davis, R-Va., (seen here) and Beverly Byron, D-Md. - said the Office of Personnel Management must increase donor participation, strengthen the campaign's infrastructure, and increase transparency and accountability.
In its final report, the CFC-50 Commission - headed by former Reps. Tom Davis, R-Va., (seen here) and Beverly Byron, D-Md. - said the Office of Personnel Management must increase donor participation, strengthen the campaign's infrastructure, and increase transparency and accountability. (Getty Images)

To fix chronic problems afflicting the Combined Federal Campaign, its financing should be overhauled, collections should be expanded to federal and military retirees, and the campaign season should be extended a month, according to an experts’ panel tasked with improving the government’s annual charity drive.

The CFC-50 Commission was assembled last year by the administration on the CFC’s 50th anniversary amid declining campaign receipts. Funds donated to CFC have declined each year since hitting an all-time high of $282.6 million in 2009, reaching $272.7 million in last year’s campaign. And while the average federal employee pledge has risen over the last 50 years — hitting $284.27 last year — the participation rate has steadily trended downward to 24 percent.

In its final report, released July 27, the commission — headed by former Reps. Tom Davis, R-Va., and Beverly Byron, D-Md. — said the Office of Personnel Management must increase donor participation, strengthen the campaign’s infrastructure, and increase transparency and accountability.

In a statement to Federal Times, OPM Director John Berry lauded the commission’s work.

“I asked the CFC-50 Commission to answer big questions and to make the CFC more efficient, more accountable, and more relevant to federal workers who want to make the greatest impact with their donations,” Berry said. “We have already taken administrative actions in a number of areas addressed by the commission. The administration supports the direction of the recommendations and will consider regulatory changes as appropriate.”

One of the panel’s more intriguing recommendations is to shift CFC campaign costs from donors to participating charities. Currently, the campaign’s administrative expenses are deducted from federal employee donations. The commission believes this is why many feds are reluctant to donate, especially as administrative costs climb. Instead, the report says charities should pay a flat application or participation fee out of their own pockets if they wish to participate in CFC.

The report said that allowing retired civilian employees to give to CFC — either through automatic deduction from their annuities, credit card billing, one-time donations or setting up ongoing donations that continue year-to-year — could raise another $166 million each year. Allowing military retirees to donate would raise even more money, though the commission did not estimate how much. The report does not address whether federal contractors, who also now do not donate to CFC, should be included in the program, although one of the commission’s subcommittees last year recommended including them.

The commission also said new employees should be allowed to immediately make CFC pledges, even if they start working outside the normal campaign period. New employees now must wait until the next pledge drive to donate. They should be allowed to renew or continue existing pledges by simply checking a box, the report said, and be able to give to any charity in any campaign around the nation. And the end date for campaign solicitations should be extended from Dec. 15 to Jan. 15, so employees will be able to consider their new pay scales and benefit costs when deciding how much to give.

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