Charity Choices

A Resource for Donors

This year's Combined Federal Campaign will introduce many major changes, some of which will slash the cost of running the CFC

This fall’s Combined Federal Campaign (2017) will be run in a completely different way, the biggest change in the federal charity drive in 30 years. These big changes are why this year’s CFC is starting late and will run into January.

For donors, the biggest changes involve ways to cut the CFC’s costs.  The local organizations that used to run the 126 local campaigns (mostly United Ways) will no longer do so.  Instead there will be 37 regions, thus many fewer staff.

Donations will now be collected and processed through a Central Campaign Administrator rather than through each local campaign, which should also save money. 

As a donor, you’ll be strongly encouraged to give online, through a unified website (, lowering processing costs.  You’ll be able to search for and support any CFC charity in the country, including local charities in other cities. Cash donations will no longer be accepted.

Many CFC costs will now be paid for by the charities themselves, through an application fee as well as a fee for being included in the unified website and printed directories. 

Bottom line: more of your money will go directly to support your chosen charities. 

 Other changes that will impact CFC donors include:

  • There will be far fewer charities this year because of the new fees, probably half as many as last year.  Many CFC charities received little if any donations.  The new fees caused many to stop participating.
  • You can now also give your volunteer time as well as your money.  The hours you give to CFC charities will be counted as CFC donations.  You can search the CFC Giving website to find CFC charities that use volunteers. 
  • When you leave the federal government, you can now continue your pledge throughout the year and into the future, if you choose to do so.  Federal government and military retirees will now be able to give through the CFC by having a little deducted from their annuities.

For charities, a big change is only having to do a full application once every three years.  Applying to the CFC is not easy, with its many standards to reassure donors that they are supporting accountable charities.  This change will lessen the burden on charities, though they will still have to file an abbreviated application in the off-years and submit their IRS tax forms. 

For more about the CFC and its changes, click on “About the CFC” at

How to make a donation or pledge through

            You can still make a CFC donation or pledge by using a paper pledge card, though this option will end in a few years.  The person running the campaign in your agency will distribute and collect pledge cards. 

            You’ll be encouraged to give or pledge online, at  You simply set up your account on the Office of Personnel Management website. 

            You can search for CFC charities without setting up an account.  Click on “Find a CFC Charity.” If you know a charity’s 5-digit CFC number, you can enter that number.  Or you can enter the charity’s name or a couple of words in its name (“Hope Fund” for “A Child’s Hope Fund”). 

If the charity you are looking for doesn’t come up, try different words.  Be careful when using apostrophes, such as “A Child’s Hope.”  If the charity’s name in the website doesn’t include the apostrophe, it won’t come up. 

You can search for local charities by selecting the CFC zone that includes your city.  Click on “Select a Specific Zone.”  You’ll get a list of the 37 CFC zones. You can also simply search for charities based in your city or state. 

You can search for charities that do a certain type of work, such as “Animal-Related” or “Education.”  You can combine search filters and look for an Animal-related charity working in the “Eastern Pennsylvania/Southern New Jersey” zone or "Philadelphia."

If you are in the military, you can search for charities working at your specific military installation.

You can also filter for charities with a certain range of overhead percentage (“Select an Administrative Fundraising Rate”).  Don’t assume that a charity with a low overhead percentage is thus better than a charity with a higher percentage.  Many charity experts believe that, unless a charity is an all or mostly volunteer-run organization, it needs to have some administrative and fund-raising expenses to have much of an impact.  One rule of thumb is that these expenses shouldn’t exceed 30%.