Corporate Philanthropy: The Latest Snapshot of Giving Trends

corporate philanthropy, corporate giving, business case for corporate philanthropy, Leon kaye, CECP, Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy, The corporate board, corporate giving standard, cgs survey, grants, non-cash giving, corporate social responsibility
CECP launched its survey of corporate philanthropy this week.

The Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy (CECP) and The Conference Board released their Corporate Giving Standard (CGS) survey this week. Over 200 Fortune 500 companies participated in the survey including 62 Fortune 100 firms. With these companies together donating almost $20 billion total in 2011, the report reveals current trends in corporate giving. To the detractors of corporate philanthropy, or those worried that companies are doing less, this survey shows that reports of corporate giving’s demise are greatly exaggerated. Last year, 60 percent of the surveyed companies gave more than they had donated in 2009, showing that despite the global financial crises large corporate gifts are on the upswing.

Some of the more interesting findings in the survey include:

Growth in corporate giving will be moderate in the coming years: While 40 percent of the companies surveyed in the CGS report expect to increase their donations this year, few expect the amount to increase more than 10 percent. Most said that the amount they would donate would remain unchanged; only 10 percent said the amount they would donate would actually decrease. Despite the expectations back in 2009 that corporate giving would take a long time to recover, most firms were quick to restore their grants and donations to previous years’ levels.

Fewer grants, but more higher-level gifts: The number of total grants is on the decline, but their monetary value is increasing. The median grant size spiked over 30 percent between 2009 and 2011. Two reasons are behind this trend: first, companies are overwhelmingly becoming more strategic about where they donate money, and want those grants to go to organizations where the work aligns with the companies’ business interests. Some companies, but less than 20 percent, say that reduced staff resources are causing them to become more efficient with less bandwidth.

Non-cash giving is volatile: One would expect the opposite to be true, but companies who reduced their philanthropic efforts in general only donated less cash via their companies’ headquarters or donations. Non-cash donations, such as information technology equipment or land, showed larger swings in total amounts donated the past few years. Companies that gave more in 2011 produced in-kind donations at a rate of over 30 percent; for companies that donated less, that rate approached a decrease of almost 50 percent. Such swings in part are because a large one-off donation such as a building, followed by the usual cash grants the following year, cause those huge fluctuations. Overall, if a company’s financial performance declined, that was the primary reason for reduced donations the following year.

Who’s the most generous with cash? Energy companies and utilities lean heavily on direct cash donations. Financial companies, and then manufacturers, primarily fund philanthropic donations through their charitable foundations. Companies in the CPG, health care and retail industries leaned toward non-cash donations. And another unsurprising trend: the more business a company does abroad, the more likely international donations are a large part of those philanthropic portfolios.

So large donations from the corporate world are not going away–they are evolving and becoming more focused as more companies desire a solid business case for corporate philanthropy. Corporate social responsibility, in part, means keeping close tabs on those monies and ensuring their maximum effectiveness.

Leon Kaye, based in Fresno, California, is a sustainability consultant and the editor of He also contributes to Guardian Sustainable BusinessInhabitat and Earth911. You can follow Leon and ask him questions on Twitter or Instagram (greengopost).

Image credit:

Based in Fresno, California, Leon Kaye has written for TriplePundit since 2010. He has lived across the U.S., as well as in South Korea, Abu Dhabi and Uruguay. Some of Leon's work can also be found in The Guardian, Sustainable Brands and CleanTechnica. You can follow him on Twitter (@LeonKaye) and Instagram (GreenGoPost).

Leave a Reply