Since 2016, the Combined Federal Campaign has declined by 58% (not counting inflation) and lost more than 80% of its donors.
In contrast, the DC-area CFC has gone down much less since 2016, just 31.8%. In 2022, it raised $2 million more than it did in 2018, while the CFC overall is down $20 million since 2018. As a result, the DC CFC now accounts for nearly half the dollars raised through the CFC (46.6%, vs. 28.8% in 2016).
To understand why the DC Combined Federal Campaign is doing better since 2017, you need to understand how the 2017 changes changed how local CFC campaigns are run.
Before 2017, local campaigns were run by local organizations, mainly United Ways. There were more than 100 local CFC campaigns.
But in 2017, the CFC eliminated the role of local organizations, instead creating 36 regional campaigns (some of which cover multiple states) and hiring four national contractors to market local CFC campaigns. The CFC invested much of the money it used to run local campaigns in two national websites, one of which made it easier for people to make online donations through the CFC.
Charities warned the CFC that this wouldn’t work, and they were right. Donations plunged almost 40% that first year and they've gone down every year since then, the only exception being 2020, the year of the pandemic. The DC CFC also plunged in 2017, but it has stayed relatively steady since 2017.
Why? We see at least two reasons. First, three of the four national contractors hired to run local CFC campaigns were based in DC. There are now just two contractors, but one is based in DC and runs the DC CFC. The office that runs the CFC nationally is also based in DC, and its deputy director ran the DC CFC for several years.
Second, the DC area is where we at Charitable Choices do most of our distribution, getting out more than 320,000 print impressions in the DC area last fall (two CFC Charity Guides, plus our CFC section in Recreation News). We do all our hand-to-hand distribution near federal buildings in the DC area, nearly 20,000 guides last fall. Even if people don’t take a guide, they hear our distributors reminding them about the need to give through the CFC.
We also put out more than 500,000 digital impressions, mainly in the DC area (our monthly CFC Charity Emails, our weekly CFC reminders in Rec News’ Weekend Update, our Rec News CFC Section and our DC Charity Guide distributed by email).