Americans are, taken as a whole, among the most charitable people on earth. Every year, Americans give of their time, talent, and money to thousands of charitable causes. In fact, the Charities Aid Foundation’s World Giving Index, 2010, ranks the United States as fifth in the world in charitable giving.
Since the mid-1960s, the U.S. government has given its employees the opportunity to collectively contribute to charitable causes through the Combined Federal Campaign (CFC). The CFC raised $281.5 million in 2010, distributing it to over 20,000 charities with both global and local reach. Military members are eligible to contribute to the CFC, although anecdotal evidence suggests many members either do not avail themselves of the opportunity or do not know it even exists.
Whether you’ve never heard of CFC or simply never chose to give using the CFC, here are four reasons the Combined Federal Campaign might be for you:
Thousands of charities from which to choose, all vetted by the government. Given the constant headlines about the government’s myriad failures to protect investors, bankers, et al from various calamities, the government’s vetting of charities might not be of much comfort. However, if you want to make sure your donations go to actual charitable causes and not actual charity administrator’s personal expenses, a modicum of research is appropriate.
To be listed with the CFC, charities must provide documentation about their financial status, as well as how much of the money they receive goes to their mission and how much to overhead. The Office of Personnel Management is tasked with keeping tabs on charities in the CFC, and you can bet the IRS has their nose out as well. By giving through the CFC, the leg work of finding reputable charities is mostly done for you.
Money is deducted directly from your paycheck. Once you designate the charities to which you’d like to donate, your finance office handles the rest. Each month the money is deducted from your paycheck and distributed by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to the charities of your choice. Since the deduction is automatic, you don’t have to remember one more thing, and chances are you won’t even miss the money.
Anonymous giving. Charities rely, by and large, on donors. Once you are a donor, you’re always a potential donor. Phone calls and mailings from the charity (and any other charities to whom they give your name) will make sure you never feel too lonely in this big world. This can be enough to make people not want to donate at all. Also, some people don’t believe in making their donations known. Either from a religious or personal perspective, they just don’t wish to say who they are. CFC caters to both of these groups. As part of your pledge, CFC gives you the option to give anonymously. Your chosen charity benefits, and your name is kept out of it.
A fourth reason to donate to the CFC is a reason that applies to all charitable giving, the tax advantages of the gift. In an effort to encourage charitable donations, the IRS allows taxpayers to list their donations as an itemized deduction. Your Leave and
Earnings Statement (LES) shows your monthly and yearly CFC contributions. Enter this amount on your 1040, and voila, a tax deduction. This only works if you itemize, and there are some limits, but most CFC contributors won’t have to worry about them. You can consult IRS Instructions for Schedule A for more information, or if you have trouble falling asleep.
Someone, somewhere at your command is the designated CFC coordinator. If you’re interested in CFC, contact them, or see the OPM’s website at www.opm.gov/cfc to get your questions answered, and to take the next step in signing up. Oftentimes, donations at or above a certain level qualify you for a free gift, and can you really ever have enough water bottles with logos on them?
The deadline for CFC pledges is December 15th, so if you think the Combined Federal Campaign might be something you want to support, act now. Even if you don’t take advantage of the CFC, opportunities to give are everywhere. You’ve heard the phrase “give ‘till it hurts”? Thanks to the Combined Federal Campaign, writer’s cramp may be the only pain you need experience.