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How CFC Charities Stack Up

October 1, 2009


The government’s charity drive, know as the Combined Federal Campaign (CFC), encourages federal civilian employees, members of the military, and U.S. Postal Service to pledge their financial support to charity. The CFC is the largest annual workplace giving campaign. Launched in 1961, the CFC has channeled billions of dollars in contributions to tens of thousands of charities.

Results from the 2008 drive have not been published, but we know the three prior years saw positive growth in the level of donations --- from $268 million in 2005, to $271 million in 2006 and $273 million in 2007. But we also know that total giving in America was down almost 6% in 2008 (adjusted for inflation). As the recession lingers, we surmise that CFC funds may have also constricted. That makes it all the more critical that those who can afford to contribute, do their homework before making their pledges.

Charity Navigator’s database of 5,500 charities includes about 850 of the national and international charities in the government’s campaign. So, how do they stack up? Our investigation shows that many are financially healthy.

  • 359 of these charities have a 4-star, ‘exceptional’ rating.
  • 243 have received at least two consecutive 4-star ratings.
  • 12 have earned 8 consecutive 4-star ratings and 14 have earned 7 consecutive 4-star ratings.

On the flip side, as we’ve noted previously, not all of our findings are so rosy. There remain several charities in poor financial health that are participating in the drive.

  • Over 200 charities fail to earn higher than a 2-star rating.
  • Specifically, 149 charities have a 2-star ‘needs improvement’ rating, 58 have a 1-star, ‘poor’ rating and 5 have a 0-star, ‘exceptionally poor’ rating.
  • 5 charities actually spend less than half of their budgets on their programs and services.
  • Over 40% either have an opt-out donor privacy policy, which requires that the donor take action to avoid having personal information shared with other entities, or no policy at all.
  • Finally, recent news reports question the campaign’s own overhead costs.  You can read both sides of that story here and here.

If you are a federal employee and you haven’t yet made your pledge (the campaign runs from September to mid December), then we encourage you to use our free ratings to help guide your charitable choices. In addition, we also recommend that you go to the charity’s web site and look for evidence that their service provides meaningful and long lasting results for the people and communities that they serve (we intend to include this kind of information our web site soon). Although we do not offer a rating for every charity in the campaign, our advanced search tool will enable you to browse our analysis for about 850 of the national and international CFC charities. You can also quickly search for a specific charity by entering its CFC number in the search box.

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