Special commission gives the CFC a roadmap to the future

Tuesday - 7/31/2012, 5:23am EDT

Bev Byron, co-chairwoman of CFC-50 Commission, speaks to WFED's Ruben Gomez

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By Esther Carey
Special to Federal News Radio

The Combined Federal Campaign should look for ways to improve and become more cost-effective, such as incorporating new technologies into its operating model. Those are among the recommendations in a report from a special commission checking on the program.

The Office of Personnel Management called for the special look at the Combined Federal Campaign (CFC) as it celebrated its 50th anniversary last year. OPM Director John Berry called for the commission to provide advice on how to best shape the campaign for future success.

OPM oversees the CFC, which provides opportunities for federal employees to give to charity.

"I asked the CFC-50 Commission to answer big questions, and to make the CFC more efficient, more accountable, and more relevant to federal workers who want to make the greatest impact with their donations," Berry said.

The commission broke the report's suggestions into four main categories:

  • Encouraging donor participation
  • Revising CFC infrastructure
  • Maintaining transparency and accountability
  • Responding to an Inspector General report from March

One of the recommendations encourages the charities involved to carry some of the CFC administrative costs. Currently, contributions to the CFC first pay for the campaign's overhead before the charities receive funds. The commission suggested a variety of options for how the CFC could determine fees.

Bev Byron, a former congresswoman and the co-chairwoman of the commission, compared the possibility of such fees to charging people a co-pay for visiting the emergency room.

"If you had a modest amount for a charity to contribute to be on the list to receive, you're going to get those charities that would be addressed every year as opposed to having a substantial number that no one has [contributed to]," Byron said in an interview with Federal News Radio.

The commission also suggested allowing federal employees to continue their contributions to the campaign even after retirement.

Infrastructure revision

The commission said OPM should incorporate new technologies, which can often increase cost effectiveness, Byron said.

The commission called for the creation of a central "one-stop shop" website listing all the campaign's charities. The movement of the new generation toward focusing on the Internet made such an update an important priority, Byron said.

"They do everything on the Web," she said. "That's the one place they go for information, so we want to make sure we are moving in the direction to meet the needs of the younger employees."

Other suggestions in the section included consolidating training costs and accelerating "go green" efforts.

Transparency standards

The commission advised the campaign to improve transparency and accountability expectations to demonstrate its credibility to potential donors.

The report suggested:

  • Develop a survey tool and focus groups for both employees and charities.

  • Strengthen eligibility criteria for charity participation and provide information about the charity to donors.

  • Consider relieving some of the burden of audit statements for smaller charities.

  • Strengthen the campaign's regulations about for participating federations.

  • Streamline the charity application process.

Response to IG's report

Byron said the commission started work on its recommendations before the release of the IG report, covering some of the same issues. The group released some of its suggestions in May, such as limiting the cost of appreciation events from the charities.

The campaign also needs to ensure that rewards from charities to CFC contributors stay within legal limits of gifts to federal employees, Byron said. That means any gifts must be capped at $20.

Implementing suggestions

Berry could implement the commission's recommendations without needing to go through Congress, Byron said. She added that the group's members are willing to provide more specific information on any of the points if Berry asks for it.

"We have already taken administrative actions in a number of areas addressed by the commission," Berry said. "The administration supports the direction of the recommendations and will consider regulatory changes as appropriate. For a half century, the CFC has been the largest and most successful workplace charity drive in the United States. This is a history of generosity that is worth preserving and strengthening."

Esther Carey is an intern at Federal News Radio.

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