Executive Order Seeks to Increase Federal Employee Donations to CFC

Contributions to the CFC have been going down each year since 2009. A new executive order seeks to reverse this by allowing retired federal employees to donate as well as allowing agencies to count federal employees’ time spent working for charity as a monetary donation.

If you were enjoying your retirement but wondering, “Why can’t I donate to the Combined Federal Campaign?”, you can quit wondering.

A new executive order has been signed by Barack Obama. It may eliminate this potential deficiency in your happiness. The changes outlined by the executive order will be effective in September 2017.

According to the executive order, “The Director (of the Office of Personnel Management) shall consider permitting annuitants to make contributions to the Combined Federal Campaign through allotments or assignments of amounts from their Federal annuities.” In order words, federal retirees will be able to have money withdrawn from their annuity check each month to send money to the Combined Federal Campaign (CFC).

A second change (or “improvement” according to an OPM press release) is that federal employees can volunteer to work with charities. These hours will count toward meeting CFC goals. So, instead of being allowed to only contribute money, volunteer hours will be “monetized.”  This additional amount of money will count toward the total amount raised.

In order to monetize volunteer hours, an estimated value will be given to one hour of volunteer time. This value will be used to calculate the total value of volunteer time given by a donor.

Note that the changes will not take place until next year. OPM will presumably issue regulations governing procedures and limits on federal employees volunteering their time.

Acting OPM Director Beth Cobert was quoted in the OPM press release as follows:

[B]y adding an easy option to allow our more than two million Federal annuitants to participate in the CFC through their annuities, we hope to raise even more money for these worthy causes from employees that choose to donate over the course of their career and into retirement.

Declining CFC Participation and Contributions

Contributions and participation in the the CFC have been declining.

Based on anecdotal evidence, some federal employees have concluded the CFC supports too many groups. Many different organizations receive donations, including politically controversial groups, not generally considered charities.

Through the 1970’s, the CFC was a generally free from controversy. Growth in the number of participating national charities was slow. The number grew from 23 in 1969 to 33 in 1979.

Starting in the late 1970’s, public policy advocacy groups, legal defense funds, and other organizations succeeded through litigation in entering the CFC. In Natural Resources Defense Council v. Campbell, the District Court for the District of Columbia ruled that the definition of a human health and welfare charity was too vague. OPM was ordered to allow a wide variety of groups to participate in the CFC.

The CFC today is a very large campaign. OPM estimates the number of organizations at over 20,000 nonprofit charitable organizations.

How Much Contributions to the CFC Have Declined

The donations to the CFC have been going down since 2009 when federal employees donated $282.6 million. Here are the results by year:

2015$177.8 million
2014$193.2 million
2013$209.7 million
2012$258.3 million
2011$272.7 million
2010$281.5 million
2009 $282.6 million

As noted by the issuing of the executive order and the OPM press release, the administration hopes to improve the amount of charitable contributions by allowing federal employees to donate their time to charities and count this time as a CFC donation.

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