Federal employees in San Diego and Imperial counties collectively contribute more than $6 million per year to nonprofits through the Combined Federal Campaign (CFC), the nation's largest workplace charity drive.
The CFC, as it's explained in the official video (an eight-minute Schoolhouse Rock rip-off featuring Dollar Bill and his friend Pledge Form), allows public employees to set aside money, either in donations or through payroll deductions, for a long list of preapproved nonprofit organizations. Established in 1961, it's the only program authorized to solicit charitable donations in federal workplaces.
Each jurisdiction appoints campaign coordinators—in Southern California, Rear Admiral Dixon Smith of the Navy and Brigadier General Vincent Coglianese of the Marines—and sets a campaign goal. This year, federal employees in the region hope to raise $6.15 million, a 2-percent uptick from last year's total.
More than 4,000 charities are eligible. In 2011, top organizations supported by local employees included St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, Wounded Warrior Project, American Red Cross, American Cancer Society and American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. The campaign also includes smaller charities; of the $3.17 million in online pledges recorded so far this year, money is set aside for groups such as U.S. Chess Trust, Gluten Intolerance Group of North America and Israel Guide Dog Center for the Blind. Federal employees have also pledged money to religious causes including Christian Comics, Catholics United for Life and Mustard Seed African School Ministries.
The bulk of the money comes from military personnel ($4.2 million in 2011), followed by Department of Homeland Security employees ($971,000), including Customs and Border Patrol, and U.S. Postal Service workers ($318,000).
Not all departments are as generous.
Of the next 25 largest local offices, the U.S. District Court, which includes judges and magistrates, had the lowest participation rate. Seven of 225 court employees contributed a combined $5,842 in 2010. No one from the court participated in 2011. The U.S. Attorney's office wasn't far behind; only 12 of 250 employees participated in 2010, contributing $5,600, and eight participated in 2011, donating $3,700. (Meanwhile, more than a hundred other local Department of Justice employees donated tens of thousands; In 2011, FBI personnel donated $21,000, DEA personnel donated $26,000 and U.S. Marshalls personnel donated $13,000.)
So far this year, only five court and two U.S. Attorney employees have registered pledges online.
U.S. Attorney spokesperson Kelly Thornton says many employees "choose to donate their time and dollars to charitable organizations separate from the CFC opportunity. This is a highly personal decision that is entirely up to each individual employee."