Wake up daily to our latest coverage of business done better, directly in your inbox.


Get your weekly dose of analysis on rising corporate activism.


The best of solutions journalism in the sustainability space, published monthly.

Select Newsletter

By signing up you agree to our privacy policy. You can opt out anytime.

Mary Mazzoni headshot

Corporate Giving is at a Record High, New Reports Find

By Mary Mazzoni

Top companies are intensifying their efforts to meet key societal needs around the world, according to a pair of reports released this week. Total corporate giving increased by more than 15 percent over the past three years to a record $23.8 billion, according to the 2018 edition of Giving in Numbers.

Produced by CECP: The CEO Force for Good and The Conference Board—and widely considered one of the world’s most robust annual assessments of corporate social investment—Giving in Numbers surveys more than 250 global corporations about their giving efforts.

Almost six in 10 of those companies increased their giving in a three-year matched set between 2015 and 2017, the report found. The top 25 percent of them now invest nearly 2 percent of their pre-tax income in community programs. “Corporations are becoming more generous,” Alex Parkinson, senior researcher at The Conference Board, said of the results in a statement.

Trends in corporate giving

Now in its 13th year, Giving in Numbers assesses the funds, resources and skills that companies invest to solve pressing global challenges.

“The data and trends from this year’s [report] confirm that businesses are standing strong with their social strategies while pursuing ever greater effectiveness,” said Carmen Perez, senior director of data insights for CECP, a coalition of more than 200 of the world’s largest companies with a combined annual revenue exceeding $7 trillion. Key trends observed this year include:

Companies are focusing on core programs. Companies are seeking a deeper impact from their giving campaigns by making fewer, bigger community investments around causes their teams care about.

Disaster relief is on the rise. A slew of devastating natural disasters struck last year—including Hurricanes Maria, Harvey and Irma, as well as record-breaking floods in China, India and Sierra Leone. Companies responded by increasing their contributions for disaster relief by more than 200 percent, in terms of total cash giving, over the past three years, the report found.

Employee engagement drives better results. Companies that offered unrestricted gift matches—or “open matching”—donated a higher dollar amount in 2017, according to the report. "But these company-employee dynamics are not self-sustainable," wrote report author André Solórzano of CECP. "Companies have to maximize the use of their resources in terms of time, money and staff."

Measuring impact is now commonplace. In 2015, 81 percent of the companies CECP and The Conference Board surveyed reported measuring the societal outcome of at least one of their grants. That number increased ever further, to 84 percent, last year. “The data also show that companies that measured both societal outcomes and the business value of employee engagement also showed growth in societal investments and employee volunteer participation,” the groups concluded in their report.

These findings are promising, but companies have yet to truly tap their giving potential, said Daryl Brewster, CEO of CECP. “It is encouraging to see leading companies lever their resources, capabilities and business discipline to expand their role as a force for good in society," he said in a statement. "While more can be done, the latest version of Giving in Numbers shows the social investment practices and strategies of purpose-driven corporations that are on the leading edge to drive sustainable solutions to the world’s most pressing problems.”

Employee choice plays an increasingly large role

As their companies give more, philanthropy is also becoming more important to employees, according to a report released this week by Giving USA Foundation and the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.

Specifically, employees increasingly want a choice in how their employers give back—and to whom. They’ve also come to expect options for how they make their gifts, from payroll deductions and online platforms, to skilled volunteer opportunities and matching gifts, the report found. Distilling academic research and information from a variety of sources, the report concluded with insights for corporations, as well as their employees and nonprofit partners.

“We know that workplace giving today reflects the changing nature of work, the role of technology, and the attitudes and aspirations employees bring to the workplace. As a consequence, workplace giving campaigns offer an exciting opportunity,” Una Osili, Ph.D., associate dean for research and international programs at the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, said in a statement. “This report makes it possible for stakeholders to apply what we already know and look to new areas of research, such as how employers can better engage diverse employees in workplace giving campaigns.”

Key findings with respect to building corporate culture and community include:

Employee choice is key. As also evidenced by the CECP report, employees want to use their skills and time for causes they find personally meaningful. They also  “respond well” when their companies match time, donations and other resources to these causes, the groups concluded in their report.

Engaged employees are more generous. Employees who feel loyalty to their companies and are actively involved in their employers' responsibility efforts tend to give more to workplace giving campaigns, the report revealed. “Therefore, it is important that companies educate their employees about opportunities to get involved and keep in touch with employees about the outcomes of ongoing CSR efforts,” the groups advised.

Nonprofits should look to business for volunteers. “Nonprofits should not only seek strategic partnerships that benefit the nonprofit, but the corporate volunteer group as well for best results,” the groups wrote in their report. While they encouraged volunteering partnerships with employee groups, they also cautioned nonprofits to be aware of the potential added costs for training such large cohorts and developing new programs to put them to work.

“This report underscores the importance of the partnership between nonprofits and corporations,” Rick Dunham, chair of Giving USA Foundation, said in a statement. “These findings emphasize to companies, fundraising professionals and nonprofits that effective communication—through a wide range of platforms—empowers employees to become donors and advocates for their causes in and through their workplaces, which is not only advantageous for the nonprofit, but for the corporation as well.”

Giving USA Foundation and The Giving Institute will host a free online panel on November 7 at 12 p.m. Eastern Time to discuss recent research in corporate and employee giving. You can sign up here.

Image credit: Perry Grone via Unsplash 

Mary Mazzoni headshot

Mary has reported on sustainability and social impact for over a decade and now serves as executive editor of TriplePundit. She is also the general manager of TriplePundit's Brand Studio, which has worked with dozens of organizations on sustainability storytelling, and VP of content for TriplePundit's parent company 3BL. 

Read more stories by Mary Mazzoni