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CFC panel co-chair: Campaign must expand its donor base

Sep. 29, 2012 - 03:35PM   |  
By STEPHEN LOSEY   |   Comments

The ailing Combined Federal Campaign must broaden its audience of potential donors to bring in more young feds and military and civilian retirees, said the co-chairwoman of a panel asked to fix the government’s annual charity drive.

Former Rep. Beverly Byron, D-Md., said in an interview with Federal Times that expanding the CFC’s donor base is the most important way to help the campaign, which has struggled with declining campaign receipts in recent years.

Funds donated through CFC have declined each year since hitting an all-time high of $282.6 million in 2009. The figure last year was $272.7 million.

Some of the biggest campaigns nationwide — including the Washington-area National Capital region, New York City and the Pacific Northwest — are lowering their goals for the first time in years.

While feds who choose to donate are growing more generous — the average pledge has risen over the last 50 years and hit $284.27 last year — fewer feds are giving. The participation rate has steadily trended downward to 24 percent in recent years.

“The audience is there, but we’re not reaching the goals,” Byron said.

The CFC-50 Commission, which Byron chaired with former Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., said in July that CFC should allow retired civilian employees and military retirees to donate through either automatic deduction from their annuities, credit card billing, one-time donations or setting up ongoing donations that continue year to year.

The effects of such a change could be enormous: The commission’s report said allowing retired civilians to donate could raise an additional $166 million each year. It did not estimate how much military retirees might donate.

CFC should also launch a “one-stop-shop” website that allows users to easily search through all national and local charities and donate online. The website should feature an interactive map with which donors can click on a certain area to target their gifts, the report said.

Byron said improving the CFC’s online presence is a crucial step to encourage young, tech-savvy feds to donate.

Byron said the Office of Personnel Management took an important step toward strengthening CFC’s finances in its response to the April release of an OPM inspector general report criticizing the Washington-area CFC’s excessive spending on food and entertainment.

After the report was issued, OPM Director John Berry quickly banned CFCs nationwide from using donated funds to pay for meals and reminded them they have never been allowed to use donated funds for shows, sporting events, concerts or other entertainment events.

The CFC-50 Commission reiterated Berry’s crackdown in its report. But Byron thinks more needs to be done to ensure money donated to CFC is being properly used.

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