New CFC Regulations Are a Blueprint for a Charitable Future
By Anthony DeCristofaro
Department of Defense Voluntary Campaign Management Office
WASHINGTON, April 25, 2014 Like every employer from IBM and ExxonMobil to Microsoft and Amazon, the government tries to offer the best employee benefit programs for its workers -- military, civilian or postal -- while maintaining vigilant oversight to ensure the programs are operated within and appropriate legal and security demands.
Charitable giving is no exception to this. In keeping with that aim, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management office has just released new regulations which -- starting in 2016 -- will lead the way for increased charitable giving across all departments and govern the future growth and vitality of the Combined Federal Campaign.
The CFC as a national philanthropic phenomenon has been remarkably successful over the past five decades, channeling more than $7 billion from federal employees to their favorite local, national and international charities. OPM continuously strives to optimize the CFC program for donors and beneficiaries alike. These new regulations do exactly that. The revised 5 CFR §950 incorporates new technologies and processes for the CFC that will lower the administrative campaign costs, improve employee engagement, and chart a positive trajectory for this campaign for years to come.
After reaching a peak in 2010, recent years have seen a decline in both CFC proceeds and participation with another drop expected when the 2013 official results are announced. This cannot be seen in isolation. In fact it is consistent with the charitable giving trend in the private sector. After falling some 15 percent during the depths of the recession in 2008-09, overall charitable giving is getting back on track, albeit slowly, according to Giving USA.
The CFC-50 Commission, completed in early 2012, provided a comprehensive blueprint with specific recommendations to lower costs, increase transparency, and take other measures to improve participation in the campaign.
These new rules will help engineer a much-needed boost to the CFC at the same time that giving in the private sector is starting to show signs of growth after the drop-off by:
-- Delivering campaign administrative efficiency at significantly lower costs … bottom line -- more donor dollars will wind up in the hands of the charities they support;
-- Introducing new and cost-effective technologies that will eliminate multiple, largely redundant and expensive information technology systems;
-- Ensuring state-of-the-art security to protect donors’ personal information; and
-- Promoting greater engagement in the CFC by employees through volunteerism and other professional development opportunities.
Taken as a whole, the approach is balanced and fully in line with the CFC 50 Commission recommendations. Fear of change is not new in any industry. When OPM made revisions in 2006, charities lamented that those reforms would cut into the dollars raised. However, from 2006 through 2011, the campaign under those revised rules continued to grow. Even after the overall economy declined in 2008, CFC still experienced increases through 2010 until growth in the sector slowed and employment started to retrench.
Admittedly, the past few years have been a challenging time to be either a federal employee or a charity. With careful project planning and testing before implementation, lower costs and greater local involvement from agencies everywhere, the golden years of the CFC are ahead.
One of the central purposes of the improved technologies and practices brought about by this reform, in addition to reducing costs, will be to free campaign workers from the significant paperwork burden previously required by the paper pledging process. This will allow them to focus on the “high touch” activities that make the campaign thrive -- connecting employees to the charities locally, nationally and internationally that they care about and which complement a career in public service.
With lower costs and an improved donor giving experience, many more workers will once again see workplace giving as part of their overall philanthropic efforts.
Service is the common denominator that brings people to the federal sector for a career. The new CFC rules are the blueprint for expanding giving, volunteerism and participation by current and future generations of employees.
Departments and agencies at all levels -- from the Department of Agriculture to the Department of Veterans Affairs, from the Administrative Office for the U.S. Courts to the Vietnam Education Foundation -- already work to integrate CFC into their broader employee engagement practices department-by-department.
The improvements brought about by this new regulation should make that effort easier for agencies, more gratifying for employees, and most importantly, more beneficial for the literally millions of people who really need help and who rely upon the critical services provided by CFC-supported charities thanks to the generosity of these annual federal employee-donors.
(Editor’s Note: DeCristofaro is the director of the Department of Defense Voluntary Campaign Management Office and a member of the local committee overseeing the Combined Federal Campaign in the National Capital Area and the Overseas Combatant Commands. He has been involved with the CFC since 1983 in various capacities.)