News and analysis
March 13, 2015

Giving to D.C.'s Federal Workplace Drive Declines 2%

Contributions by Washington-area employees to the Combined Federal Campaign, the government’s workplace giving drive, declined again last year to $49.2 million, a drop of more than 2 percent.

The downward trend among Washington workers, who account for the largest share of donors in the federal drive, was the fourth annual dip since 2010, when they contributed nearly $67 million.

Donations to the Washington-area campaign, which supports 4,000 charities, are an early indicator that giving by federal employees has still not recovered from the Great Recession. Nationwide, federal employees donated more than $209 million in 2013, the most recent year for which data are available, after contributing more than $282 million at the campaign’s peak in 2009.

Wages among federal workers were frozen for some years after the financial downturn and pay increases, when they have been granted, have been under 2 percent. The drive has not been able to recover employees who stopped giving when the government shut down for 17 days in 2013, said Vince Micone, the chief of staff at the Department of Homeland Security, who chairs the campaign in metropolitan Washington.

Another factor, other experts said, is the fact that waves of federal employees who supported the campaign for years are retiring, and the drive has not yet attracted enough younger workers to replace them.

While giving among government employees is still depressed, some officials believe that it will soon increase, due to changes the Office of Personnel Management is making to centralize the campaign. Those changes will lower the cost of running the drive and make giving more attractive to donors. For example, for the first time this year, donors were allowed to direct their contributions to charities in cities other than where they work.

"Greater efficiencies and other factors make it likely that brighter days are ahead," said Tony De Cristofaro, who directs the Department of Defense’s campaign office. "Those things bode well as the recovery starts to pick up."

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