Federal employees and military service members gave more to health and medical research charities during the 2013 Combined Federal Campaign than to any others, according to a new report.
The general health and rehabilitation category netted about $22 million in 2013 — roughly 17 percent of the total dollars donated in that year, according to a report by the Workplace Giving Alliance, a group of charitable federations. The report is based on estimated numbers from detailed survey of 70 percent of the local CFC organizations.
Medical research was the second-most popular charitable group, according to the report, with $20 million donations in 2013 — about 15 percent of the $209 million donated in 2013. Human services charities, such as the American Red Cross and the Salvation Army, among others, brought in a total of $18 million in 2013.
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Combined Federal Campaign 2014 Giver's Guide
Only 11 charities received more than $1 million in donations in 2013, according to the report, including St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, the Wounded Warrior Project, the Fisher House Foundation, Doctors Without Borders USA and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Most charities earn less than $25,000 from the CFC, according to the report, and 111 earn less than $1,000.
While overall donations dropped about 19 percent from 2012 to 2013, the Fisher House Foundation was the only top charity that saw its donations grow, from about $2.5 million in 2012 to $2.8 million in 2013.
David Coker, president of the Fisher House Foundation and an Army veteran, said part of that increase was because of an outpouring of support the charity received after they offered to pay survivor benefits and death gratuities to the families of fallen service members.
The payment of survivor benefits and death gratuities — which includes a $100,000 payment — was halted because of the ongoing government shutdown. But once news outlets found out about the offer, people responded by donating.
"That simple gesture of doing the right thing had an unexpected consequence and that was it put us in a position to have a very successful campaign," Coker said. "In many ways good performance in the CFC means we are good performers to military veterans and the families we serve," Coker said.
He said the best charities are those with which people have a personal connection, and for many federal employees who were veterans, Fisher House is one of them. He said the donations are the most important feedback for whether Fisher House is properly serving the community.
"We are steadfast in our belief that if we are doing a good job serving the families we are privileged to serve then good things are going to happen and so far that's been the case," Coker said.
The government shutdown dealt a blow to both total donations and to the number of overall donors, which fell from about 848,000 in 2012 to about 650,000 in 2013, according to the report.
Marshall Strauss, the CEO of the Workplace Giving Alliance, wrote in the report that the government shutdown, years of pay freezes and furloughs helped drive down participation in the CFC and that the charity faces future hurdles.
"Donors, moreover, can increasingly turn to an array of technological and financial vehicles to make gifts. It is indeed a time of great challenge for traditional charitable programs like the Combined Federal Campaign," Strauss wrote.
But Strauss believes the CFC can return to its higher levels of donations and overall participation.
"We choose to remain optimistic that employee interest in the CFC will revive and that this program, the world's largest workplace fundraising drive, will continue to raise hundreds of millions of dollars each year on behalf of many thousands of eligible charities, large and small," he wrote.■