As part of the recent global effort to raise money for victims of the tsunami disaster in South Asia, the U.S. government’s personnel agency last week relaxed a rule prohibiting federal employees from collecting money in the workplace.

According to a memo sent Dec. 30 by Kay Coles James, U.S. Office of Personnel Management director, the agency will allow federal employees to collect money at the workplace specifically for tsunami relief.

“I believe the special solicitations are the best option for Federal employees to provide relief assistance,” James said in her memo.

The allowance provides a new donation option to millions of federal employees. According to the most recent statistics report published on the OPM Web site, there are more than 2.7 million federal civilian employees, 93,000 of them overseas.

On military bases, fund-raising efforts are normally regulated by strict guidelines that prohibit passing the hat in the workplace and they also require an installation commander’s approval.

According to the regulation that the Army’s Installation Management Agency uses to govern funding drives, “limited fundraising activities to assist the unfortunate may be authorized by local commanders.”

A spokesman for the U.S. Air Forces in Europe said it has similar regulations that require a commander’s approval for all fund-raising efforts on its air bases.

Since the Dec. 26 disaster, the U.S. government has been trying to organize the enormous outpouring of donation offers by trying to direct interested people to guidelines published by the U.S. Agency for International Development, the department in charge of federal humanitarian assistance.

In that effort, the public affairs director for the Air Force’s Air Mobility Command on Wednesday also sent a memo to Air Force officials with instructions on how to respond to the numerous offers the command has received for items people want to deliver to the stricken area.

“We cannot simply put goods on an AMC aircraft and move them gratis, even when the aircraft may have room and be going in the right direction,” officials were told to tell callers, in the memo sent by Col. Dave Thurston. “It makes much more sense to donate money to the aid organizations that are working the problem and know what specific goods and services are needed. It’s much more cost effective to purchase goods (usually at lower cost) in the affected region than to ship them halfway around the world.”

At European military bases, some efforts are getting off the ground to collect money for relief, including a fund-raising event at the Grafenwöhr Training Area in Germany, and upcoming collections at some chapels.

“I’ve encouraged our folks through the Army footprint to … take a dedicated offering for that relief,” said Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Doug Wooten at the 415th Base Support Battalion in Kaiserslautern, Germany. But Wooten said he thinks people should be careful not to donate money merely in a competitive bid to see who raises the biggest amounts.

“I think we ought to just give to be giving,” he said.

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