Readers Respond to CFC Controversy

Will the controversy surrounding the CFC impact donations this year? readers responded to a survey earlier this week on the issue of whether the controversy surrounding the Combined Federal Campaign will impact their donations during the upcoming charity drive.

For those who may have missed the numerous news articles surrounding the CFC in the last several weeks, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), is protesting a requirement that it review a list of suspected terrorist suspects to ensure money from federal employees does not go to individuals or groups that support terrorist activities. The ACLU said it was willing to turn down some $500,000 it receives from the CFC to avoid complying with the requirement to check for links with terrorist organizations.

The CFC campaign raised about $248 million last year. The new rule issued by OPM requires the approximately 2,000 charities applying to participate in the CFC to certify they do not “knowingly employ” suspected terrorists.

The ACLU then formed a coalition of some non-profit organizations, including the Sierra Club and Amnesty International USA, to try to force the Office of Personnel Management to rescind the requirement.

Readers were split in their reaction to the controversy. 46% of those responding indicated the controversy would impact the amount of money they donate to the CFC. 44% said it would not impact the amount of money donated. The remainder had not yet decided how it would impact their pattern of donations.

As to how the controversy will impact donations, 4% of respondents said they will be giving more money to the CFC this year and 41% said they would be giving less money. 11% had not decided how it will change their donations and, as noted above, 44% said the controversy will not impact their charitable donations through the CFC.

As usual with controversial issues, there are numerous perspectives on the issue. Some readers think the new rule reflects an over-reaching government agency that reminds them of the campaign by Senator Joe McCarthy to find communists in government in the 1950’s.

As one supervisor from GSA in Washington, DC articulated his opinion: “These new guidelines add not an ounce of security, but they open the door to “enemies lists” and “blacklists” that have no place in America.” This reader said he would reduce his contribution to the CFC this year and, instead, send the difference directly to the ACLU.

Some readers fully supported the approach taken by OPM in issuing the requirement and some readers expressed frustration over the entire controversy.

A number of readers also expressed regret that the CFC has included a variety of interest groups to receive money from federal employees when they do not consider the groups to be traditional charities but, instead, advocacy groups for a political cause.

Here is a sampling of the reader responses. First, several comments from readers who expressed dissatisfaction with the new requirement to screen for terrorists.

A human resources specialist from the Fish & Wildlife Service in Massachusetts wrote: “I designate to a few specific agencies. If one or more opts out of being an unpaid DHS agent, diverting scarce time from client service to scanning untrustworthy, unverified multiple lists of the usual suspects, my donation will likely drop.”

A computer specialist from the USDA in Kansas City said: “Instead of giving the monies through CFC I intend to give them directly to the charities. At least that way I will be sure they get the money and CFC doesn’t decided down the road that they don’t qualify and take the funds away from them. I had that happen in the past and was quite upset. I don’t intend to give them the chance to do it again.”

A benefits authorizer from the SSA in New York doesn’t like the program in general: “I was never a big supporter of the CFC and only made a minimal donation each year (I think federal employees are underpaid and shouldn’t be giving public relations credits to their agencies by making donations. Donations should be made as individuals) but did so to assuade (sic) managers who look at these things. This year, I will eliminate my donations because of the political controversies.”

A geographer from the Geological Survey in Reston, VA commented: “I don’t give to CFC, I give directly to the charities I want. They get more money and I don’t have to worry about some middle agency taking a cut or causing one controversy after another.”

A number of readers support the requirement for screening for terrorists. An employee of the Forest Service from Kalispell, Montana wrote: “The ACLU is way out in left field on this issue. This NOT 1950 anymore. The threat of terrorist connections in seemingly normal charities is real. When I donate money to charity, I WANT to know my money does not help terrorism and will refuse to contribute to any that do not certify that.”


A financial systems specialist from DFAS commented: “I think what the Patriot Act said in theory is good, however, the practical application is too cost prohibitive. CFC is all about giving money directly to charities to help with their overhead not hinder it.”

The comments by some readers reflect a general concern about organizations in the CFC. This SSA reader commented: “…I could be potentially contributing to some cause I didn’t believe in. And not long ago there was a scandal over appropriated funds. I stopped CFC contributions, and haven’t participated since. My charities get their contributions directly. In fact, it wouldn’t bother me a bit to disband CFC. We waste too much work time on CFC activities. It’s often just an excuse to go play on the clock.”

A training specialist with the Air Force doesn’t like the inclusion of groups in the CFC that are not traditional charities: “I quit giving donations to CFC several years ago. I have moral issues with some of the groups they started listing. I donate directly to cancer and heart associations.”

And, finally, on a more positive note to the controversy, a director of EPA in Washington sent in this comment: ‘In spite of CFC controversies, I continue to recognize how truly fortunate I am and how needy others are.”

Thanks to all readers who took the time to vote in this poll and send in your comments.

About the Author

Ralph Smith has several decades of experience working with federal human resources issues. He has written extensively on a full range of human resources topics in books and newsletters and is a co-founder of two companies and several newsletters on federal human resources. Follow Ralph on Twitter: @RalphSmith47