Welcome to the Pacific NW CFC Frequently Asked Questions page. Below you'll find some of the most common questions about the CFC. Please call the CFC Senior Manager if you would like further details or can't find the answer you're looking for here.

Questions

Answers

Is my donation tax deductable, and if so, what do I use a receipt?

Yes, it is tax-deductible, and in most cases you can either use a copy of your pledge form as a receipt, a cancelled check, or if you gave by payroll deduction, your payroll stub from the end of the calendar year.  Please be advised that the IRS recently changed its record keeping requirements for certain types of donations, and that it is a donor's responsibility to request a receipt to substantiate their CFC contribution.

On January 8, 2008 the IRS issued Notice 2008-16 which established requirements for substantiating the tax deductibility of lump sum contributions (defined by the IRS as all non-payroll deduction contributions) made through the CFC in taxable years beginning after August 17, 2006.  In the case of the CFC, a “lump sum contribution” will generally mean a cash or check contribution.  These requirements apply to donations of $250 or more.

You can go to the IRS web site to get the most recent version of these regulations and more information about your tax deduction. The Pacific Northwest CFC encourages all donors to consult their tax professionals with any questions about their charitable donations.

Please email the CFC Senior Manager at Contact Us if you need any additional tax documentation.

What is the operating overhead for the local CFC?

The Pacific Northwest CFC is committed to running an efficient campaign with a low overhead rate. Our 2013 overhead rate was 7.4%, among the lowest of any CFC in the country for a campaign of its size. This means over 92 cents of every dollar donated goes directly to the charities of choice.

The overhead expense covers the cost to produce the charity list, pledge forms and other campaign materials, as well as to manage the pledge processing, donation distribution, auditing and other accounting functions. Because the CFC reaches so many people it also helps charities reduce their fundraising rates, because they do not need to do their own marketing to reach federal employees.

Should I choose charities just based upon those with the lowest overhead rates?

Not necessarily. The overhead rate of a charitable organization should not be considered the primary indicator of an organization's efficiency or performance. It should only encourage a potential donor to contact the organization and/or investigate further if it appears to be unusually high.

The overhead rate is calculated based upon the expenses reported on an organization's IRS form 990 for management (line 14) and fundraising (line 15), divided by total revenue (line 12). The result can be influenced by a number of factors, such as:

  • Size of the organization - Small charities can have a higher overhead with even the smallest of staff and operating expenses. A charity raising $150,000 a year might have one full-time employee at a $30,000 annual salary, plus expenses for office space, equipment and supplies, and already be at 25% overhead. Other small organizations may be all-volunteer run, and thus reflect little to no overhead.
  • Type of service - Some organizations that are research-intensive may invest a great deal of money into generating funds for their research or for the start-up costs, well before any specific program expenses can be applied or results can be seen. These organizations will have a higher overhead in some years due to these types of expenses. Other organizations, such as charitable federations, are dedicated primarily to fundraising for their members, and thus have higher fundraising expenses than its member charities.
  • Gain of a large revenue source - Some organizations are fortunate enough to receive a large endowment gift or grant. They are therefore able to cover most or all of their operating expenses from that source. Thus, they may be allowed to report a very low to 0.0% overhead rate. A charity may also earn a large grant that will significantly increase revenue for the period of the grant and thus drive down the overhead rate.
  • Loss of a large revenue source - If an organization looses a regular large donor, or a grant comes to an end and is not renewed, revenue for that year can be adversely effected and result in a higher overhead rate. This is not necessarily and indication of long-term problems.
  • Economic conditions - many charities suffered from decreased contributions during the economic slump of the late 2000's, particularly local ones, as Oregon and Washington held the highest unemployment rates in the country. This was not necessarily a reflection of the poor performance of the organization, but just the reality of donors not having income to spare. Thus, overhead rates went up for these charities, and they've had to spend more in fundraising to try to restore their revenue.

In summary, it is important to learn more about the size, types of services provided and longer-term financial trends of an organization before drawing conclusions about its efficiency. 

How can I find out more about participating CFC charities?

You can contact the charity directly via the phone or email information listed in the charity list. Many charities post annual reports and financial statements on their web site, which you can use to examine their mission, services, and financial position. There are a variety of online resources that rate charities (examples: Charity Navigator and Guidestar), and the Oregon Department of Justice and the Washington Secretary of State's Office also post guidelines for assessing charitable organizations. 

What if an organization to which I have contributed to in the past is not listed in the contributor's guide this year?

By regulation charities must apply to and qualify for the CFC each year. In some cases, charities do not apply every year, or they may have qualified in the past but not for the current campaign (for a variety of reasons). If you cannot find a charity in the contributor's guide to which you have contributed in the past, call the charity to encourage them to apply again for the next campaign or check with the Oregon Federal Executive Board office at 503.326.3030 to find out more. 

Can I designate to a charity not listed in the charity list?
Can I designate to a charity in another campaign's charity list?
Can I designate to a charity in last year's charity list?

A donor can only donate to a charity that is found in THIS year's charity list. However, starting in 2014 the answer is now “yes” to donating to other CFC-approved charities thanks to the implementation of Universal Giving. You can donate to any 2015 CFC-approved charity. Please double-check that it is both an "approved" CFC charity in 2015 and that you write down the correct 5-digit code. Incorrect codes could end up being another charity.

If there is a charity not in the book that you would like to see listed, please have them contact the Local Federal Coordinating Committee in February to be mailed an application, or have them check this web site.

Do I need to put my social security number on the pledge form?

Social Security numbers are not required by the local CFC to process the pledge forms. The box is there only if the federal agency payroll office requires the social security number (or in some cases their EIN) to identify the employee. Check with your CFC Coordinator or payroll office, and if they don't require it then it can be left blank.

In addition, the yellow copy of the pledge form (copy # 2) that goes to the local processing office ("Pacific NW CFC Office"), has the social security number box blacked out. The copy on which it would appear should only be seen by an agency payroll office (copy # 1).

What is the CFC's relationship with United Way?

By regulation every local CFC in the country must contract with a local non-profit organization to serve as the Principal Combined Fund Organization (PCFO). The PCFO is responsible for the fund collection, disbursement, and general management of the campaign, and reports to the Local Federal Coordinating Committee (LFCC).

Any local charity can apply to the Pacific Northwest CFC to be the PCFO. The United Way of the Columbia-Willamette has won the bid to manage the local CFC for the past 20+ years. They are audited annually by an independent accounting firm and all CFC activities must be kept completely separate from their United Way activities.  

In addition, the United Way of the Columbia-Willamette, as well as several other United Ways in Oregon and SW Washington, participates in the local CFC as an eligible charity. They must apply and meet the CFC's standards, just like every other charity that is part of the campaign.

Does United Way or the Oregon Federal Executive Board have any control over where a donation is designated?

Absolutely not. Wherever a donor designates his or her pledge, via the five-digit code on the pledge form, that's where the donation goes. The only difference is if a donation is undesignated. By CFC regulation such funds are distributed at the end of the campaign to all charities receiving donations through the local CFC, based upon the percentage of total designated donations each charity receives.

Can I cancel my donation?

Yes, for payroll deduction pledges. Just notify your payroll office in writing, and they will stop the distribution. Unfortunately, we cannot refund cash contributions.

What happens if I retire or leave my federal agency before the end of the year?

Your donation will be stopped by your payroll office.

After I retire, can I continue giving through the CFC?

Yes, you can still give through the CFC, but your options are limited to cash or personal check.  Payroll deduction is no longer an option.  Credit Cards are being piloted in other parts of the country, but this option is also not available in the Pacific Northwest CFC.

How do I know that my gift goes to the charity that I designate?

You have the option of authorizing the CFC to disclose your name, pledge amount, home address, and home email to the charities you donate to. If this box is not selected, and the address information is not legibly completed, the charity will not have knowledge of your name and will not be able to answer questions about your specific gift or acknowledge your personal donation. Many charities will write to you acknowledging your gift if this box is checked and information is legibly complete.