Troops who want to donate to a charity through the Combined Federal Campaign this season will see some improvements.

One change that may have particular appeal: A new Universal Giving policy lets donors contribute to any participating CFC charity, regardless of geographic boundaries. Previously, donors could contribute to any national and international CFC-approved charities, but could give to local CFC-approved charities only within their geographic area.

"Their giving is not restricted to the geographic boundary of their duty station" and the nearby local area, said Anthony De Cristofaro, director of the DoD Voluntary Campaign Management Office.

Some service members may want to donate to charities that benefit communities where they grew up, and where their relatives remain.

For example, in the National Capital CFC region last year, there were 4,400 charity choices for donors. This year, there are 24,000 choices in the U.S. and overseas.

While the printed version of each CFC area's charity brochure will still contain only those unique charities approved specifically for that local campaign, donors can search online for charities at

https://apps3.opm.gov/CFC/CharitySearch/Main.jsp

.

Information is also available at www.cfctoday.org.

Officials hope the perfect storm that negatively affected last year's campaign is a thing of the past.

Furloughs caused by sequestration during the campaign and about 15 weather-related closings were among factors affecting donations. Overall pledges to CFC last year totaled $209 million, down about 19 percent from the previous year. Overseas CFC donations totaled about $11 million, down from $13.6 million in 2012.

"Our outlook this year is much more positive," De Cristofaro said.

Last year, DoD employees in the national capital region pledged more than $10.8 million to CFC. This year's goal is $11.3 million, said Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work, speaking at the opening of the CFC giving season, which runs from Sept. 1 to Dec. 15. Each CFC region determines its CFC campaign weeks.

This year, 85 local CFC regions out of 150 total will offer the option of donating through MyPay for military, DoD civilians and employees of certain other agencies, such as the Veterans Affairs and Health and Human Services departments. Those 85 regions represent about 80 percent of DoD personnel, De Cristofaro said.

The electronic option is voluntary, but benefits include more confidentiality and security, and fewer errors.

Nationwide, about $26 million was donated last year by about 43,000 individuals using MyPay.

The cost associated with each paper form is about $14. So electronic donations through MyPay "saved the government and the campaign more than $600,000," De Cristofaro said.

Karen has covered military families, quality of life and consumer issues for Military Times for more than 30 years, and is co-author of a chapter on media coverage of military families in the book "A Battle Plan for Supporting Military Families." She previously worked for newspapers in Guam, Norfolk, Jacksonville, Fla., and Athens, Ga.

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