Total giving by some of the largest U.S. companies rose 8 percent in 2017, with cash gifts up 5 percent, a survey by the Chronicle of Philanthropy finds.
Based on data from sixty-three of the three hundred largest U.S. companies in the Fortune 500, the Chronicle's list of the biggest corporate givers was topped by large pharmaceutical companies that make overseas donations of drugs, with Pfizer giving nearly $4.9 billion, including $4.7 million in products, followed by Merck, which gave $2.7 billion, including $2.6 billion in products. Rounding out the top five were Google ($1.75 billion total, 1.5 billion in products), Gilead Sciences ($1.6 billion, $1.2 billion), and Johnson & Johnson ($1.47 billion, $1.2 billion).
The areas receiving the most corporate dollars were community causes, K-12 education, and higher education, followed by the arts and the environment, which displaced health and children as the fourth and fifth most popular causes in the Chronicle's previous corporate-giving survey, conducted two years ago.
The growth in corporate giving could continue this year, thanks to a strengthening economy, strong corporate earnings, and a new tax law that slashed corporate tax rates from 35 percent to 21 percent, the Chronicle reports. The analysis also found that the median share of pre-tax profits contributed in 2017 was about 1 percent, leading some critics to argue that it's not enough. Curt Weeden, a former corporate grantmaker and corporate philanthropy expert who runs the New Strategies Program at Georgetown University, told the Chronicle that giving by individuals has hovered around 2 percent of disposable income for years and noted that the new tax law allows companies to set aside 10 percent of pre-tax income for charitable giving.
CEOs, said Weeden, should be saying to themselves, "Well, hell, we can at least do 2 percent. And as long as it is strategically planned and administered, so it's in the parameters of what we do as a company, then we should be doing it."