Keith Willingham, director of combined federal campaign operations, Office of Personnel Management (OPM), speaks Sept. 5 during the Combined Federal Campaign of the National Capital Area 2012 Leadership Conference in Washington, D.C. (Thomas Brown / Staff)
As the 2012 charity pledge season kicks into gear, managers of the Washington-area Combined Federal Campaign, the largest CFC, are lowering their fundraising goal by $2 million to $62 million — the lowest since 2008 and the first time in recent memory that the goal fell in comparison to a previous year’s collection. Campaigns across the country are similarly adjusting their goals:
The New York City CFC lowered its goal from $2.5 million in 2011 to $2.3 million in 2012.
Pacific Northwest CFC, which covers parts of Oregon and Washington state, set a 2012 goal $1.70 million — slightly lower than the 2011 goal of $1.72 million. The CFC raised $1.63 million last year.
The Northern Lights CFC in Minnesota lowered its goal from $1.5 million last year — after receiving only $1.2 million in donations — to $1.2 million for 2012.
Three Rivers/Pennsylvania West CFC’s goal is unchanged at $1.1 million, even though it absorbed a smaller CFC and has a larger donor base this year.
The Miami Valley CFC in Ohio kept its goal flat this year at $3 million.
Wink Newcomb, manager for the Northern Lights CFC, said campaigns have to be realistic about federal employees’ ability to give. “The freeze on federal salaries has had an effect,” she said.
Funds donated to the government’s charity drive have declined each year since hitting an all-time high of $282.6 million in 2009. They fell to $281.5 million in 2010 and to $272.7 million last year. 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 from 40 percent in 1998 and nearly 80 percent in 1965.
The campaign runs from Sept. 1 to Dec. 15.
The National Capital Area Combined Federal Campaign set an ambitious $67.2 million fundraising goal last year. But the two-year pay freeze, a dwindling donor base and an unsteady economy caused donations to fall short at $64.5 million.
The Office of Personnel Management, which oversees the CFC, does not set annual nationwide goals, according to CFC director Keith Willingham. He said in a statement that CFC welcomes all contributions.
Joseph Mettimano, spokesman for the nonprofit Global Impact, which runs the National Capital Area CFC campaign and the overseas campaign, praised employees for last year’s “astonishing” donations during a down economy. And this year’s $62 million goal is still “ambitious” and will require the CFC to reach out to new donors, he said.
The Overseas CFC does not set annual fundraising goals, Mettimano said. Instead, the CFC tries to ensure that 100 percent of all personnel have the opportunity to donate if they want. The goal is to increase the number of federal workers participating — even if they are only donating $5, she said. Federal workers in the area will be able to give online for the first time — which she hopes will boost participation.
Mettimano said broadening the donor base and involving new donors and young feds are crucial parts of his strategy this season.
The CFC created a young donor advisory council made up of younger feds who will help direct outreach efforts and advise how to get younger workers to donate — part of a CFC “succession strategy,” according to Mettimano. The council members will offer advice on how and where to advertise and explain how the campaign works.
The CFC-50 Commission, a panel tasked with improving the charity drive, in a July report said new employees should be able to make CFC donations as soon as they are hired instead of waiting for the fall CFC season to begin.