Charity Choices

A Resource for Donors

How has the CFC changed over the years?

     Prior to the 1950s, fund raising in the federal workplace was "an uncontrolled free-for-all," according to the official history of the Combined Federal Campaign. People were asked to give to various causes throughout the year. Not much money was raised.

     This began to change in the mid-1950s, when restrictions were placed on who could solicit and when they could do it. By 1958, only the Red Cross and three groups of charities (United Ways, health agencies and international agencies) were allowed to run separate fund-raising campaigns at certain times of the year.

     The first "combined" campaign was begun in 1964 as an experiment in six cities. The four separate campaigns were combined into one -- the "Combined Federal Campaign." It did very well.

     By 1971, all campaigns had become "combined." In addition, payroll deduction was introduced. Giving went up dramatically, from $12.9 million in 1964 to $82.8 million in 1979.

How did employees get more choice of charities to support?

     During the 1970s, employees still could only choose to support a small and slowly growing number of charities (23 in 1969; 33 in 1979). It was extremely difficult for a new charity to qualify to receive employee gifts.

     Some charities challenged the rules governing eligibility in court, in Congress and in the media. They were successful, with the rules being slowly changed during the 1980s so that more and more charities could participate. Most significantly, charities that tried to change laws as a way to help people were allowed to do so. (The IRS restricts how much all charities can spend on lobbying and forbids charities from engaging in partisan politics, such as endorsing candidates.)

     Employees apparently liked these changes, with the number of people making CFC gifts rising from 2.2 million in 1980 to 2.7 million in 1988.

     These changes had a dramatic impact on some charities. The Alzheimer's Disease Association of Greater Washington, for example, received $140,000 in gifts during its first year of eligibility. This allowed it to hire full-time staff for the first time and greatly expand its services.

     There was an attempt by some in Congress to restrict eligibility in 1995, but it was not successful.

     The CFC regulations were changed in 2006. Among other changes, the CFC eliminated the rule that restricted the percentage that charities could spend on fund-raising and administrative costs. However, charities still must reveal the percentage of total support that they spend on these costs.

     Major changes in the CFC rules were proposed in 2013 and finalized in 2014.  Implementation of most of these changes was put off until 2017.  LINK – HOW WILL THE NEW CFC RULES CHANGE THE CAMPAIGN?           

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