WASHINGTON — A special solicitation open to members of the federal workforce that took place from April to June raised $670,000 for relief efforts in Ukraine, the Office of Personnel Management said.

Each year, tens of millions of dollars are given by federal civilian, postal and military donors in the Combined Federal Campaign, the main conduit for donations from government workers to thousands of pre-approved nonprofit groups. The current CFC season is in full swing, opening on Sept. 1 and ending on Jan. 14.

Outside of that program, agencies can conduct “special solicitation” giving periods toward a particular cause for which federal employees can pledge a new or extra gift. Last year, $520,000 was raised in a special solicitation for winter storm recovery in Texas and other southern states. Two years ago, a special solicitation for COVID-19 relief raised nearly $2.6 million.

This year, the cause of choice was the war in Ukraine. Federal employees passed the hat after Russian President Vladimir Putin launched a full-scale invasion of the country in February. The war has killed thousands of people, displaced millions more, and destroyed entire cities.

On the heels of last year’s annual CFC, which raised more than $80 million for local, national and international charities, federal employees and retirees gave more than three-quarters of a million dollars for relief efforts for Ukraine, OPM said.

“Through the annual Combined Federal Campaign, members of the federal family demonstrate that our commitment to public service extends far beyond the workplace,” said Kiran Ahuja, director of the Office of Personnel Management, in a statement. “In this moment of need, our efforts should focus on assisting the people of Ukraine.”

One month before the special solicitation period was authorized, President Joe Biden ordered federal assistance to help ease the burden on people in Europe and refugees impacted by the invasion. The subsequent special solicitation allowed federal employees to voluntarily support the CFC’s participating charities that were helping people injured or displaced during the war, as well as those on the front-line providing emergency aid.

How special solicitations work

While the CFC is an annual giving opportunity for the federal workforce that is procedurally regulated, special solicitations operate with some fluidity. Generally, OPM limits donations to the annual year-end solicitation but leaves leeway for special solicitations for emergencies.

Once a special solicitation is open for donations, federal employees can write a one-time cash or check donation outside the normal CFC procedures. One-hundred percent of the gifts made in the campaign for Ukraine went to charities.

OPM’s director has the power to grant permission for special solicitations for emergencies and disasters defined as “any hurricane, tornado storm, flood, high water, wind-driven water, tidal wave, tsunami, earthquake, volcanic eruption, landslide, mudslide, snowstorm, drought, fire, explosion, or other catastrophe in any part of the world.”

Since at least 2010s, special solicitations have been authorized by OPM to drive donations separate from the CFC for a number of humanitarian crises, including the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, the 2011 tsunami in Japan, hurricanes Sandy, Harvey and Irma in 2012, 2017 and 2018, respectively, the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and Winter Storm Shirley in 2021.

“The health and human needs around us are great and growing,” said Ahuja. “The CFC is an ideal way to help in hard times.”

Molly Weisner is a staff reporter for Federal Times where she covers labor, policy and contracting pertaining to the government workforce. She made previous stops at USA Today and McClatchy as a digital producer, and worked at The New York Times as a copy editor. Molly majored in journalism at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

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