Charity Choices

A Resource for Donors

Combined Federal Campaign pledges down 8% in 2015

For the fifth straight year, donations to the Combined Federal Campaign declined last fall, to $177.8 million, an 8% decrease. Since 2010, the amount the CFC raises annually has fallen by more than a third, a loss of more than $100 million a year in donations.  In contrast, between 2010 and 2014, overall charitable giving rose nearly 19%. 

            The main cause?  Many fewer donors.  More than a half million people have stopped giving through the CFC since 2010. Fortunately nearly a half million people still give and their average payroll deduction pledge has kept going up: to $439 in 2015.   

            Many people have stopped giving because of the disruptions in the federal workplace, including sequester-forced furloughs, the government shutdown, the cutoff of cost-of-living raises and more.  If you read the online comments on articles about the decline in CFC giving, you’ll find lots of people saying in essence, “What do you expect when employees face these kinds of challenges.” 

            But the decline in donors has persisted even with no shutdown and the reinstatement of cost-of-living raises.  Nearly 164,000 people who gave during the government shutdown in 2013 are no longer giving.   We’ll be offering our ideas about what might stop this rapid loss of CFC donors in an upcoming email. 

            The decline in the CFC has hit national charities hard, especially in the 2014 CFC. In 2014, the average national/international charity went down 19.1% (more than double the CFC’s overall decline). 

            Why?  This was the beginning of “universal giving,” which allows employees to give to any CFC charity in the country, including local charities on the other side of the country.  This seemed like a positive thing, with an employee who grew up in LA but who now works in DC being able to support the LA Boys and Girls Club, for example.

            But universal giving has had an unexpected impact on national charities.  There is now one central database of all eligible charities – national and local.  When you search for a charity using common search terms – “birth defects” or “environment” -- you get a long list of local charities, some of whom seem to have no relationship to the search term.  Many national CFC charities don’t even make it on the first, very long page of search results. 

            This search function has become especially important since the CFC is moving to online-only pledging.  More and more donors are giving to the CFC online. 

            In 2015, the average national charity didn’t fall nearly as much: just 3.1% (less than half the overall decline in the CFC).  This in part reflects the fact that, for the first time in decades, there were fewer national charities in the CFC (2660 in 2015 vs. 2703 in 2014).

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