Sarah Ford | April 28, 2014

Far fewer federal employees donated to charity campaign last year

By Joe Davidson

In the wake of new figures showing a sharp plunge in employee participation in a federally sponsored charity campaign, the Obama administration is strongly defending new rules on the donation process that charity leaders fear could make things worse.

That defense has been called misleading and “disingenuous.”

Federal employee participation in the Combined Federal Campaign (CFC) fell 22.9 percent last year, even more than the 18.8 percent fall in contributions, according to figures released by the Office of Personnel Management. Almost 200,000 fewer federal employees donated to the campaign in 2013, a decrease from 848,150 in 2012 to 650,142.

“The CFC continued to face challenges with the sustaining of pay freezes and furloughs due to sequestration,” Keith Willingham, OPM’s CFC director, said in a memo to his boss, OPM Director Katherine Archuleta.

“In 2013, these challenges culminated with a lapse in Federal allocations leading to the shutdown which occurred at a time during which most local campaigns were set to kick off,” he added. “The impact is evident in the dramatic decline in participation.”

The amount raised in 2013 was $209,660,540, down from $258,253,361 in 2012. That 18.8 percent drop had been projected this month by the Payroll Philanthropy blog.

In a blog article Archuleta posted on Friday, she defended CFC regulations that have been criticized by charity leaders and questioned by a bipartisan group of House members. They worry the rules that took effect this month could result in a further decline in donors and donations. An April 15 letter to the administration from the Republican chairmen and top Democrats on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and its subcommittee on the federal workforce raised “substantial concerns” about sections of the new regulations. The elected officials cited the nonrefundable charity application fee, the elimination of cash contributions, and changes to charity support organizations.

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