Leadership for the Combined Federal Campaign is optimistic about the 2019 season of the federal government’s annual giving program, despite major hurdles faced in the previous year and consistent downward trend in donations over the past decade.

CFC regularly runs from the end of each fiscal year to the beginning of the next calendar year, putting it at a time period where federal paychecks — and charitable giving based on paycheck deductions — are at risk if Congress cannot pass a budget on time, as occurred last year. Some of the charities that regularly receive CFC donations in fact turned around to help feds impacted by the shutdown.

“The shutdown happened at really the time when we get our last, huge contributions to the CFC. It really stopped that in its tracks,” said Vince Micone, chairperson of the Local Federal Coordinating Committee for the CFC of the National Capital Area, in an interview with Federal Times.

“Last year was so hard at the end of the campaign, with the lapse of appropriations and the shutdown, that this is one way to give thanks back to the charities who helped so many federal employees during that really tough period.”

The government shutdown that ranged from the end of 2018 and into much of January 2019 was the longest in U.S. history. And though the Office of Personnel Management authorized an extension of the CFC program to make up for lost time, 2018 CFC numbers fell short of those collected in the previous year.

Congress has yet to pass appropriations legislation for 2020, meaning that a funding lapse could occur after Sept. 30 if nothing more is done, but Micone said that CFC leadership is optimistic about the coming year.

“As federal employees we’re very, very hopeful that Congress will act and give us a budget, so we can keep on doing the work we’ve been doing every day,” said Micone.

In addition to budgetary anxieties, the 2019 CFC season will also have to fight against a consistent downward trend in donations.

According to Micone, that trend is not about feds being less charitable today than they were a decade ago and more due to the fact that modern technology has made it so easy for people to donate in other ways:

“Some of the research we’ve done in charitable giving is that people give to charities, but they give to charities that have a cause that is of interest to them. Today there are just so many ways that people can give directly to charities they care about. You see it on social media all the time, people post and give to charity X or charity Y in lieu of a birthday gift.”

The challenge, Micone said, will be to teach employees that CFC is cost effective, provides a large group of fully-vetted charities and enables giving on an ongoing basis.

“CFC, when I started, it would be a couple emails from work, a couple adds in the newspaper, and that was it,” Micone said. “Our primary focus in getting the word out about CFC [today] is through social media and through the use of all of those technologies that help us provide information to people on the platforms they use at the places they’re at.”

2019 also offers the first real chance at testing the reach of new giving options, such as the ability to donate volunteer hours and for federal retirees to contribute. Volunteer hours still make up a small percentage of the value donated through CFC, but that number is on an upward trajectory.

“Just in the first real year that we did that, which is last year, we went from a very small number to 56,000 in volunteer hours,” said Micone. “As far as I’m concerned, I don’t care. Dollar, time, it all talks about the importance of service.”