Combined Federal Campaign (CFC) guru Bill Huddleston tells how nonprofits can raise money from federal employees in just eight great points:
1. Why should I bother to read this article about the Combined Federal Campaign?
- Because it’s easy to register the first time, and after that it’s really easy to renew your registration
- Because if it were a foundation it would be the 10th largest foundation in the United States
- Because your small local nonprofit can raise reliable unrestricted money . . . CFC doesn’t work only for large or well-known organizations
- Because in terms of time to dollars it’s one of the most leveraged fundraising vehicles.
2. Okay, you’ve got my attention. What is the Combined Federal Campaign?
CFC is the workplace giving (payroll deduction) program for employees of the U.S. federal government. If you are enrolled with CFC, any of the four million federal employees and military personnel can easily pledge to your organization. CFC is the only vehicle open to these employees.
3. How much can our nonprofit expect to generate from federal employees?
The unhelpful answer: Anywhere from zero to $6 million dollars. The helpful answer: a local nonprofit, by performing a few simple actions throughout the year should be able to generate somewhere between $1,000 to $10,000 annually. Some do worse, others better.
4. How do we enroll in the CFC and how much time will it take?
It will probably take you one or two days to fill out the application the first time, and less than one day in subsequent years. There are three types of enrollments, but whichever you use, your organization will be available to all federal employees everywhere:
- National and international charities apply directly to OPM (Office of Personnel Management) which administers the CFC.
- Local nonprofits apply directly to their regional CFCs.
- Federations exist at all three levels, and enroll as a federation. Examples: EarthShare, Community Health Charities, United Ways
5. What percentage “cut” does CFC take from the donations?
The percentage varies regionally, and ranges from 4% to 10%. The more federal employees participate, the lower the percentage cost. Nationally about 32% of federal employees participate.
6. What else will it cost us?
Other costs to the nonprofit are up to you. You might spend time and money participating in charity fairs, in special mailings to your members, or in a sign that you hang on your building.
A great benefit is the time that government CFC volunteers put in conducting the campaigns each fall. There’s also the cost of government facilities made available for kickoffs and charity fairs that are provided free of charge. In other words, the federal government and federal employees subsidize your CFC fundraising campaign.
7. We’re already registered with CFC and we only get about four donations per year. What are some things we could do that take less than one hour to do to increase this dramatically?
- Put the CFC logo with your CFC code on your home page.
- Have all staff and board members put the CFC code in their email signatures.
- Hang a banner with your organization’s name and CFC code on your building like the American Red Cross does.
- Put a “sandwich board” sign up on the median of a commuter artery with your CFC code number, as a local human services consortium does.
Don’t forget that among your members, clients, patrons, and fans, there are many federal employees, military personnel, and their families. They will be glad to know that they can designate your organization — which they care about so much — as the recipient of their donations.
8. We don’t have a “name brand” and our cause is controversial. Will we get any CFC donations?
If you have supporters, there’s a good chance that some of them are federal employees or in the military. But they won’t donate to you if they don’t know you’re registered and what your CFC number is.
There is a time lag between when the donor makes the pledge and when you get the contact information about the donors. So as soon you get their contact information, be sure to thank your donors and let them know how their dollars are being put to work. And think of some way to thank the CFC volunteers who conduct the campaigns where they work for the benefit of all the nonprofits in the CFC campaign.
Bill Huddleston was working at the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and volunteering on the CFC campaign on September 11, 2001, when he saw the smoke rising from the Pentagon. Reflecting on the issues led him to a career switch to the nonprofit sector. Bill is the author of CFC Fundraisng: How to Grow Donors that Give for Decades.
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