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CFC tries ‘universal giving’ in three regions

Sep. 29, 2012 - 03:37PM   |  
By STEPHEN LOSEY   |   Comments

For the first time, Combined Federal Campaign donors in three locations this year will be able to give to any charity nationwide under a new “universal giving” pilot program.

The Chicago Area, Heart of Alabama and Washington state’s Greater Olympic Peninsula campaigns will test universal giving, which will allow federal employees and military service members who work in those areas to choose from more than 39,000 local charities nationwide when deciding where to donate. Until now, CFC donors could not give to local charities outside their own areas.

The Office of Personnel Management, which runs CFC, said universal giving is the only one of 24 recommendations made by the CFC-50 Commission in July that will be enacted in time for this fall’s fundraising drive, which runs through Dec. 15.

The CFC-50 Commission said that, under current rules, if a donor wants to give to a charity in his hometown, where he no longer lives, he must donate outside CFC. Allowing universal giving is important, the commission said, because federal employees — and especially military service members — are mobile.

“Charities may be losing funds because the process to give directly may not produce the same size donations as would occur if the donor could use the [CFC] payroll deduction option,” which spreads the donation out over many pay periods, the commission said in its report.

OPM said all three pilot campaigns have received pledges through universal giving.

“It will be interesting to see how this new pledging option impacts the CFC this year,” OPM said in a statement to Federal Times.

The commission also recommended:

• Extending the end date for campaign solicitations to Jan. 15, so employees will be able to consider their new pay scales and benefits costs when deciding how much to give.

• Allowing new employees to immediately make CFC pledges, instead of waiting until the next pledge drive.

• Allowing retirees to donate to CFC, through either automatic deductions from their annuities, credit card billing, one-time donations or donations that continue year to year.

But OPM Director John Berry said Sept. 19 that action on those recommendations will not be ready until next year’s campaign, at best.

Extending CFC to retirees will require legislation, and no lawmaker has yet proposed any, Berry said.

OPM plans to go through the regulatory process to enact the commission’s other recommendations, which Berry said would allow the public to review and comment on the proposals.

“We are working very hard to try to get all of the other recommendations of the commission,” Berry said. “My dream would be to have them in place before next fall’s campaign.”

Former Rep. Beverly Byron, D-Md., said she thought OPM could enact several of the changes on its own. But she said she’s not bothered that most of the changes won’t be in place in time for this year’s campaign.

“I think we’re on track,” Byron said.

But one commission member, who asked not to be named, said she was “incredibly disappointed” when she learned most of the recommendations would not be enacted this year. She fears that if Berry leaves OPM, CFC reform could be put on the back burner.

“If [Berry] leaves, the report will be for nothing,” she said. “There’s concern that we’ll get a new guy without the same interest in the campaign we got from Berry. There are some basic things in this report that could slightly move us forward. But I’m not optimistic anything will be implemented, because [almost] nothing will happen this year.”

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