For the second straight year, the Chronicle of Philanthropy teamed up with USA Today to conduct a corporate giving survey of the nation’s Fortune 500 companies. The results, while not exhaustive, are better than most industry experts probably had a right to expect.
In 2010, the corporate sector increased its cash giving to the nonprofit sector by 13 percent over the previous year, compared to a 7.5 percent decline from 2008 to 2009. Adjusting the numbers for product-based, non-cash donations, giving rose 20 percent over last year. The joint analysis includes data for 180 companies, 117 of which were submitted by the organizations themselves in response to the survey, while the other 63 were compiled from informational tax forms supplied by individual company foundations to the Internal Revenue Service as required annually by law.
The National Capitol Region is home to seventeen Fortune 500 companies, four in the District, four in southern Maryland (all in Bethesda) and nine in Northern Virginia (Arlington, Falls Church, McLean, and Reston). Of those seventeen, only two appear in the survey: aerospace giant Lockheed Martin (52nd Fortune 500 ranking in overall sales) and hospitality chain Marriott International (210th). Lockheed saw their giving in 2010 climb 5 percent to just over $25 million. Marriott saw their giving rise 16 percent from 2009 to 2010, after dropping 6.3 percent from 2008 to 2009.
Overall, a number of findings emerged from the survey:
- Cash donations totaled $4.9 billion in 2010 from 113 companies.
- Wal-Mart was the biggest individual giver at $319.5 million in cash giving. The only other donor above the $300 million cash mark was Goldman Sachs Group, who increased their giving more than four-fold in 2010, after giving in the high $60 millions range in 2008 and 2009.
- When accounting for product giving as well, pharmaceutical giant Pfizer emerges as the top donor at $3 billion value combined, only $69 million of which was cash. That still represents a cash increase of 15% over 2009, and a stark contrast to three consecutive years of trending downward.
As with any survey of this type, however, there are some challenges with analyzing the data year-to-year. For example, Eli Lilly & Co. expanded its employee-match program for giving to include foreign employees for the first time, who constitute half its global workforce. Changes in industry accounting methods also make the data more volatile from year to year than it ideally would be.
The Chronicle’s overall interpretation of the survey is that “Big Business” won’t increase giving in in 2011 over 2010 levels. This is based in part on the words of those business themselves, as two-thirds of their respondents characterized their expected 2011 levels to remain flat. In the context of history, that could be considered bad news, since in a broader sense, total charitable giving has increased each year since 1954 when tracking began, save for the years 1987, 2008, and 2009. This rebound itself should not be minimized, however, since the economy is clearly still struggling and the nonprofit sector is going through a re-imagination period.
The entirety of the survey and findings can be found online at the Chronicle’s site.