Corporate giving hits $17.8B in the U.S.

When it comes to corporate giving, the news is encouraging. More U.S. companies are engaging in smart and strategic community investment initiatives — and seeing positive results from their efforts.

The 2015 Community Involvement Study conducted by Boston College’s Center for Corporate Citizenship found that:

  • Corporate community involvement contributes to key business goals — including improved reputation and the attraction and retention of employees.
  • Nearly 90 percent of the companies that measure the connection between volunteer participation and employee engagement find a positive correlation between these scores.
  • Increasingly, companies are linking their community involvement efforts to their business strategies — prioritizing social goals that are most relevant to their operating contexts.

In the BCCCC study, 236 businesses (mostly based in the United States and medium to large in size) were questioned to explore how they are investing in corporate giving and employee volunteer efforts — and how these community involvement efforts connect to their overall business goals and success. (In the interest of full disclosure, I teach Corporate Giving courses for this institution.)

In 2014, charitable giving in the United States totaled $358.38 billion — the highest number ever recorded. Of that amount, corporations contributed 5 percent, or about $17.8 billion, which is equal to about 1 percent of corporate pre-tax profits.

According to a recent Gallup Poll, more than half of U.S. employees were not involved in, not enthusiastic about and not committed to their work and workplace. An additional 17 percent were “actively disengaged” from their work.

The survey determined that only 31.5 percent of U.S. employees were truly “engaged” with their work and workplace. Millennials are the least engaged. This is a significant problem, since millennials will constitute at least half of the workforce by 2024.

Workplace engagement is a key metric for retention and productivity, both of which are important components of profitability. One proven way to increase employee engagement is through strategic employee volunteer programs.

At a time when U.S. employers are competing aggressively to recruit and retain the most skilled workers, community involvement activities make a critical difference.

When making a decision about which of two jobs to accept, 72 percent of applicants prefer to work for a company that is socially responsible and actively supports charitable causes. For millennials, this imperative is especially strong.

The BCCCC study found that more than 80 percent of companies offer an employee volunteer program with its own dedicated budget — and an additional 6 percent are in the process of setting one up. In addition, more than 80 percent offer a workplace giving program, and often match employee contributions.

“The companies most deeply invested in society were also the ones that saw the most robust financial performance,” according to the 2015 Giving in Numbers Report of the Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy.

CECP CEO Daryl Brewster observed: “Conceiving and executing a ‘giving’ strategy need not entail a zero-sum construct that opposes ‘making money.’ Indeed, when corporate societal investment harmonizes with a company’s business strategy, the whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts. Applying corporate talent, diverse resources, innovation, measurement and executive engagement to pressing community needs yields results for society and business.

“While tackling challenges such as illiteracy, water scarcity or job skills, societal investment helps companies in myriad ways: pioneering new markets, filling R&D pipelines, fostering sustainable supply chains, attracting future workforces, mitigating material risks, elevating the ranks of employees and enhancing positive brand reputations.”

A South African proverb says, “The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” 2016 is a great time to start or expand your corporate citizenship efforts to enhance the triple bottom line of “people, planet and profit.”

Nonprofit of the month: Aurora Public Schools Foundation’s Career & College Resource Centers

The Aurora Public Schools Foundation’s Career & College Resource Centers help students identify and prepare for post-secondary education and workforce opportunities, enabling them to build successful, rewarding futures. APS students represent 130 countries and speak 133 languages, and many face multiple barriers that make preparing for the future difficult. Center advisers guide students and families through applications for college, financial aid, scholarships, workforce internships and vocational programs, creating opportunity and changing lives.

Bruce DeBoskey is a Colorado-based philanthropic strategist working with The DeBoskey Group to help businesses, families and foundations design and implement thoughtful philanthropic strategies and actionable plans. He is a teaching fellow with Boston College’s Center for Corporate Citizenship and a frequent speaker at conferences on philanthropy.