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Corporate Giving in Tough Times

According to initial findings released by the Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy this month, corporate giving grew by 5.6 percent last year to a per company median of more than $26 million.  The findings, compiled from data collected from 155 companies, revealed that about two-thirds of companies increased their giving, including seven of the eight who reported losses.  The data are reassuring.  Even as the economy weakens and amidst what Newsweek calls “The Coming Charity Crisis,” companies recognize the significant reputational and social benefits their corporate philanthropy provides.  Nevertheless, companies will face increasing pressure to justify their commitment to corporate philanthropy to the very stakeholders who have high expectations for it in the first place, from consumers (who are struggling with higher prices), to employees (as they worry about job security), to executives and shareholders (who want to see the ROI).  Today and always, a strategic, focused philanthropic program has the most measurable business and social impact, so we recommend a number of elements for companies to consider to better ensure the sustainability of their corporate philanthropy programs in uncertain times:

  • Choose a social issue to support that is aligned with your business to leverage your size and assets for greater impact.
  • Focus your giving within this issue space (considering revisiting your employee giving policies as well).
  • Prioritize giving in key markets based on your areas of greatest need (e.g., increase employee morale and minimize turnover, spread corporate culture to a new facility, leverage existing sponsorships in certain cities, etc.).
  • Evaluate/reevaluate your nonprofit partners to ensure they fit within your focus area, meet your established partnership criteria and have proven, measureable social impact.  Limit pet charities.
  • Engage your nonprofit partners to identify ways, beyond cash, in which you can provide much needed support.  Professional expertise, employee volunteerism, cause marketing and advertising or marketing support are just a handful of ways in which you can add value.
  • Measure to ensure demonstrable business and social return.
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