Charitable Giving and the CFC

Whether or not you believe in the concept of the exact tithe, charitable giving remains one of the basic tenets of Christian living. Besides “passing the plate” on Sunday, the Combined Federal Campaign is one of the more popular means through which members of the military have an opportunity to give.


What is the CFC?

The CFC is a government-sanctioned means of collecting charitable contributions from federal employees. It runs every year from September to December, during which volunteer representatives make “100% contact” with their fellow employees to inform them of the CFC campaign. Military members (and other government employees) are given the opportunity to make one-time contributions or give monthly deductions from their paychecks to any of thousands of approved charities.

Why should a Christian use the CFC?

Christians who want a “simple” means of giving to charity or who lack the “budgetary discipline” to write a check every month may want to use the CFC. Another reason a Christian fighter pilot might consider using the CFC is public perception. While those who contribute and the contribution amounts are private, there are some (particularly the CFC volunteer) who do know the details. It could be “confusing” to someone to know that a Christian fighter pilot has turned down the opportunity to give. This “perception” doesn’t change the reason we give but might affect the means.

For example, some Christians budget so as to give their “monthly” gift to their church on the first Sunday of the month. However, others might choose to split the gift across the Sundays of the month even if they have the total amount at the beginning of the month; they may do this for a variety of reasons, but some may do it simply so that people see them putting money in the plate every week. This may avoid causing other to think that they aren’t giving to the church; while this may seem superficial, it might be important for children to see a family routine of giving or important to a first time visitor someone has invited from their workplace.

Christians who like a simple, paycheck-based planned giving system or who have difficulty remembering to contribute their offering may find the CFC useful.

Why should a Christian not use the CFC?

While supporting the CFC may help avoid the appearance of hypocrisy (a Christian who won’t give), declining the CFC may itself present the opportunity to witness; i.e., “Thanks, but I don’t give to the CFC because I already give to my church, which is….”

With respect to finances, some websites in support of the CFC contain the following text in response to the question of giving to CFC rather than directly to the organization:

Charities incur costs processing individual contributions, whereas with the CFC, they receive one check each month that represents the combined gift of many donors. This process frees resources for better community service and reduces an organization’s fundraising costs to a minimum.

This is true, but only if the cost of processing an individual contribution exceeds the cost of participating in the CFC. As much as 20% of every CFC contribution may not get to the designated organization. This is because of the overhead of the CFC itself as well as many of the “federations” through which charities are organized. From a purely financial point of view, if a Christian is committed to giving to an organization, they are generally better off giving directly. Even those who might use the CFC because of its “simplicity” could probably use a systematic giving plan provided by the organization they want to support (monthly electronic credit card charges, for example).

Another negative aspect of the CFC is that the CFC itself is not a Christian organization; it is merely a fund-raising mechanism. While the charities the CFC supports are screened for fiscal responsibility, they cover the gamut of moral values. The charities range from the traditional Focus on the Family to environmental and homosexual advocacy groups. A member’s contributions go to his designee and do not support those other organizations, though a portion of his donation will support the CFC that collects money for all those agencies.

The Christian Fighter Pilot and the CFC

Ultimately, the choice to participate in the CFC is dependent on an unlimited number of things. It is neither moral nor immoral, neither required nor prohibited. The Christian fighter pilot should simply make an informed, wise, and prayerful decision.

Focus on the Family has a similar discussion on the CFC located here. It is also worth noting that Focus on the Family’s fund-raising guidelines indicate that they want their contributors to meet their obligations to their local church before giving to Focus.

Christian Service Charities is the federation through which most Christian organizations operate under the CFC. The CFC numbers for their respective charities are located here.

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One comment

  • My wife and I are atheists and we struggle with the same issues. Which charities should we give to each year. We seldom worry; however, about how others will perceive us when the “collection plate” is passed.