Charitable Giving and the CFC: 2012

This is an updated version of the regular discussion of the Combined Federal Campaign.

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 (CFC) is one of the more popular means through which members of the military have an opportunity to give.


What is the CFC?

The CFC, which has been announced through a variety of official releases, is a government-sanctioned means of collecting charitable contributions from federal employees. It runs every year from September to December (CFC-Overseas runs a slightly different schedule), during which volunteer representatives make “100% contact” with their fellow employees to inform them of the charitable giving 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 military Christian 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 military Christian has turned down the opportunity to give. This “perception” doesn’t change the reason a Christian gives — but it 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. While this may seem superficial, it might be important for children to see their parents’ 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 fundraising 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 homosexual advocacy groups; religious advocacy groups participate as well as the “Freedom From Religion Foundation.” (Even Michael Weinstein’s MRFF has been trying to get in on the action, though it has presumably failed to meet some minimum requirements to be accepted.)  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 Military Christian 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 military Christian should simply make an informed, wise, and prayerful decision.

The CFC website can be seen here:

The list of CFC charities is searchable through this website.  Some more popular numbers include:

10528 Cadence International
12040 Campus Crusade for Christ
10538 Christian Military Fellowship
11087 The Navigators
10531 Officers’ Christian Fellowship (OCF)
11726 Alliance Defending Freedom (formerly the Alliance Defense Fund) (ADF)

While the discussion above notes the wide variety of organizations represented in the CFC, it focuses on the possibility of using the CFC to support a similar ideological group; it does not criticize the CFC for having groups whose ideologies are wholly inconsistent with either those listed above or with religion or religious freedom in general.

Speaking from an alternative viewpoint, Jason Torpy of the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers “found bias” in the list of charities, and outright says certain Christian charitable organizations should be removed from the CFC, apparently because he equates participation in the CFC with “government support.”  It’s a shame Torpy couldn’t demonstrate the ability to “celebrate” atheism without simultaneously degrading religion.  He might have lent some credence to the belief atheism wouldn’t exist without religion to criticize.

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  • JD, very insightful article. I’ve been reading your blog for a couple of weeks now, and I wanted to let you know how encouraging and thought-provoking I have found it to be. You address a wide range of issues that confront the Christian soldier, sailor, airman, and Marine, and you are sharp and incisive yet consistently humble, gracious, and gentle in your approach.

  • This is one of those below-the-radar issues that seems simple for well-meaning non-Christians and “nominal” Christians, but which I have very mixed feeling about. I have never participated in CFC, and don’t really care for it, although it promotes both worthy and (IMHO) unworthy causes.

    The other aspect I find distasteful is the way commands compete for bragging rights over meeting or exceeding CFC goals. While there are worse things than Christians competing to “outgive” each other in worthy causes, it just feels a bit unseemly to me. Motives matter to God.

    I have a hard time reconciling participating in the CFC campaign with Matthew 6:1-4…

    6 “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.

    2 “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 3 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.