The Softer Benefits of Corporate Giving
Have a favorite charity or non-profit community cause to which you contribute time and
resources? Chances are your company will be interested in supporting it, too.
According to the Giving USA 2004 study released by the Giving USA Foundation in the
summer of 2004, American individuals, estates, foundations, and corporations gave an
estimated $240.72 billion to charitable causes in 2003. In the US, during the five years
spanning 1998-2002, corporations contributed $55 billion, (5%) of the total $1135 billion.
Corporations also gave through foundations, which contributed an addition $121 billion
(11%) of the five year total.
People tend to be aware that there are financial benefits to corporations for donating to
charities and that corporations want to be good, forward-acting citizens. What people—
and many organizations—don’t realize yet is that there are still other motivators and
benefits for corporate giving. The fact is, increasing numbers corporations are extending
the benefits of their corporate giving activities by leveraging them as team building
programs and employee support initiatives that increase even further the benefits these
activities bring to the company itself.
For example, according to Marjorie Polycarpe in a December 2003 article Re-Examining
Workplace Giving Programs (http://www.onphilanthropy.com/bestpract/bp2003-12-
31.html), she quotes the manager of the employee giving campaign at American
Express, Angela Woods, who discussed how her company involved employees early on
in their planning process for corporate giving activities to help guide their choices for
charities. Getting employee input helped American Express identify the causes and
charities that were most important to their employees.
This approach helps organizations communicate to their employees that they respect
and support their employees’ donations of personal time and resources. It also helps
companies demonstrate that support, by forming foundations, by contributing cash, in-
kind gifts, and/or matching programs, and by encouraging other employees to get
involved in particular causes and facilitating their involvement.
When companies form foundations, they establish organizations focused on giving to a
particular cause or which is authorized to contribute to approved organizations.
Companies can also contribute cash gifts directly to charitable organizations.
When companies donate non-cash resources, these are called in-kind gifts. In-kind gifts
can be products that the company produces, moved out of its inventory, or they can be
can be other items that the charity can use, such as furniture, computers, food, etc.
When companies contribute the services for which they normally charge clients, for
example, marketing or legal services, these in-kind gifts are called pro bono donations.
To help support charities that their employees contribute to or to encourage employees
to contribute to charities already supported by the organization, companies can enable
donations to come directly from the employee’s payroll check. Frequently when such
systems are in place, they are part of a company matching program which has the
company match, or exceed by some percentage, cash donations made by the
employee. So, for example, if an employee contributes $50 per pay period to an
authorized charity, the company would contribute $100 per pay period in a 2:1 program.
The company would be contributing in a similar manner for all of the other employees in
Companies are finding that this sort of support, in addition to public recognition and
praise of employees who donate their time and personal resources to various causes,
helps them communicate to employees that they are valued as individuals. It also
provides a forum through which the company can show appreciation to the employee for
the benefits it receives through the positive association with the employee.
According to Kurt Rechner, President and Chief Operating Officer of Tejas Securities
Group, Inc., “Tejas Securities contributes regularly to charities as a way to give back to
our community and to show support for our employees and the companies with which
we do business. For example, we’ve made contributions to the Children’s Medical
Center Foundation of Austin, Communities in Schools, Meals on Wheels, Arthouse
Texas at The Jones Center, and The Austin Film Society, each of which provides
wonderful benefits to the people in and around our home-base of Austin, Texas. In
addition, we recently learned about the great work being done by Big Brothers of
Massachusetts, and we made contributions to that organization as well as Love for
Children. I think it’s important for companies to openly communicate with their
employees and business partners about their corporate giving activities. By sharing
information, the employees feel valued, the organization learns about good
organizations that need its support—and it creates a win: win all the way around.”
Companies frequently find themselves contributing around themes. Some, for example,
find their employees tend to want to support health-related causes, such as Breast
Cancer Research or Alzheimer’s research or other causes that may have affected
families and friends. Other organizations find their employees gravitate towards
education-related initiatives, such as the TJ Ford Foundation and Reading Is
Fundamental. And many organizations find themselves contributing to organizations
that help support children, especially organizations that provide esteem-building like Big
Brothers/Big Sisters and those helping children with special needs, such as Special
Olympics and Make a Wish Foundation.
With good causes being a good rallying point for boosting morale, many organizations
use their corporate giving programs as team building tools to help unite their workers
around a common charitable cause. They find that uniting workers for an outside cause
helps reinforce their ability to work together for the companies’ good as well.
So if you’re an employee who is active in a charity, consider extending the value of your
contributions by getting your employer involved. And if you’re an employer who wants to
expand the benefits of your contributions program, explore ways to involve your
employees, too. The non-profits you support will thank you.
For additional resources on corporate giving and other types of philanthropy visit: