Corporate Donors Turning to 'Strategic Philanthropy'

Rather than donate directly to specific charities, corporate donors are increasingly choosing to give to projects in which they can be actively involved and that align strategically with components of their business, the Financial Times reports.

The approach, sometimes referred to as "strategic philanthropy," is gathering momentum along with the idea of "philanthrocapitalism," which holds that charitable giving should be seen as an investment. One prominent example of both ways of thinking is the UN Office for Partnerships (UNOP), which was established to distribute money received by the United Nations Foundation to groups working to alleviate poverty, improve maternal and child health, and protect world heritage sites.

Companies that choose to work with the UN have a menu of philanthropic options from which to choose, from UNICEF to the World Health Organization to the World Food Program, as well as guidance on how to direct their funds. UNOP makes the case for investing resources in the developing world as a way of establishing goodwill in those countries over the long term. The office has assisted corporations such as Coca-Cola, Vodafone, and Dow Chemical in setting up programs to address global health issues that affect their employees in developing nations and has received some five hundred inquiries in the past year from foundations and corporations looking to establish similar programs.

According to UNOP manager Amir Dossal, many companies have their own ideas of where they want to donate, though he encourages them to "focus on Africa, and focus on safe drinking water. Don't think of it as charity, but think of it as investing."

Deborah Brewster. "Smart Solution for Corporate Philanthropists." Financial Times 09/30/2008.