New charities have joined the fold of two military-related federations in the Combined Federal Campaign, though the groups saw overall membership dip slightly this year from 2016.

The Military Family and Veterans Service Organizations of America has 69 participating charities, compared to 70 in 2016, while the Military Support Groups of America has 62 in 2017, compared to 64 in 2016, said Patrick Maguire, whose Maguire/Maguire firm provides support services for the federations as well as 20 other independent charitable federations.

New to the MFVSO is the FourBlock Foundation, which offers a career readiness program for veterans twice a year in major metropolitan cities around the country. The semester-long, university-accredited program provides professional development, career exploration and network and mentorship. The foundation was accepted by the CFC earlier this year.

New to the MSGA, the Fleet Reserve Association Education Foundation (CFC #80236) provides scholarships to eligible service members and veterans of the Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard and their family members. Each year, the foundation presents scholarships totaling about $100,000.

The foundation offers a variety of scholarships up to $5,000 for those seeking undergraduate and graduate degrees, with some targeted toward specific groups and others offering broad eligibility criteria. Awards are given based on financial need, academic standing, character and leadership qualities.

“This is the first step in expanding the program and awarding more scholarships each year,” said Joe Barnes, president of the foundation‘s board of directors. “This is the first year we’ve been accepted into the Military Support Groups of America. We’re excited about that.”

Being part of the federation hopefully will expand the awareness about the foundation for both potential scholarship recipients and potential donors, and increase contributions, he said. The foundation has been part of the CFC since 2012 as an individual organization, not as part of a federation.

Donations to the military federations have fallen, even when compared to the declining CFC totals overall: Pledges to MVFSA groups dropped by 14 percent in 2016, down almost a million dollars to $5.9 million. MSGA pledges fell 16 percent over that span, from $2.5 million to $2.1 million.

Overall CFC giving dropped 6 percent in 2016, from $177.8 million the year before to $167.1 million.

There has been a decline in giving for all military charities in recent years, Maguire said. “partly due to the decline of the CFC and partly due to donor fatigue, I suspect, but I really don‘t know.” The federations don’t get enough information from CFC to offer informed speculation on the decline, he added.

“The CFC is hugely important to the military charities, for obvious reasons,” Maguire said. “Those charities have made a significant investment to continue in the campaign, and they are counting on CFC givers to respond favorably to the changes in the CFC that make it a much better giving alternative.

“Our biggest concern is that after so many years of the ‘business as usual CFC,’ potential givers might not appreciate what a huge change the campaign is embarking on, and why it is a valuable benefit to them and to the participating charities.”

A new CFC fee structure requires nonprofits to pay their share of CFC campaign costs upfront. In previous years, a portion of the donation was kept by CFC for campaign costs before the money was distributed to the charity.

The goal is for 100 percent of all donations to reach the charities. The CFC also has attempted to help donors make better informed decisions by requiring charities to provide information such as the administrative and fundraising rate, or AFR — the percentage of dollars spent on expenses other than services.

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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