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Pledges down sharply as 2013 CFC ends

Jan. 17, 2014 - 06:00AM   |  
By SEAN REILLY   |   Comments

Furloughs, the partial government shutdown and a climate of pervasive uncertainty took a stiff toll on the just-concluded Combined Federal Campaign, according to organizers and other participants, with some local CFCs reporting double-digit percentage drops in pledges.

“There’s a lot of discouraged employees out there,” said Wink Newcomb, manager of the Minnesota-based Northern Lights Campaign, where the $850,000 pledge total was well short of its $1 million goal.

At the National Capital Area CFC, the country’s largest, pledges so far add up to $47 million, down from almost $62 million last year, a spokeswoman said. The SoCal campaign, based in San Diego, has registered about $4 million in pledges, compared to a $5 million goal and $5.6 million in pledges for the 2012 campaign, Director Charlie Carey said.

While the 2013 workplace charity drive officially ended Jan. 15, the numbers could still increase as last-minute pledges are recorded. The Office of Personnel Management, which oversees the CFC, typically reports the final amounts in the spring.

Nationally, however, the results are likely to continue an accelerating decline in giving totals. After peaking at almost $283 million in 2009, pledges for the 2012 campaign added up to about $258 million.

The 2013 campaign was battered by a combination of factors, Carey and other organizers said. Among them: Sequester-related furloughs for hundreds of thousands of federal workers, the 16-day partial shutdown which struck in October just as many campaigns were getting under way and the effect of a three-year freeze on federal pay scales. The cumulative impact made the campaign “very challenging,” said Vincent Micone, who chairs the federal employee committee that oversees the National Capital Area CFC.

Although OPM extended the campaign season a month past its usual Dec. 15 conclusion, many federal employees were taking “use or lose” annual leave at year’s end that pulled them away from anything work-related, Newcomb said.

The 2013 campaign ended with OPM still at work on a final version of a CFC overhaul formally unveiled in April. Some of the proposed changes, which would push the campaign toward all-electronic giving and a more regional structure, have come under fire from individual campaign officials, fundraisers and charities. The agency has not said when the final package will be released.

But with Congress close to final passage of a fiscal 2014 spending bill that would partially roll back the latest round of sequester-related budget cuts and end the threat of shutdown, Micone and others are optimistic that a rebound will come in this fall’s campaign.

“As Scarlett O’Hara said in ‘Gone With the Wind,’ ” Carey said, “ ‘Tomorrow is another day.’ ” ■

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