Corporate Cash Donations Rose 2.8 Percent in 2013, Survey Finds

Even as U.S. corporate profits reached a record $1.9 trillion in 2013 — up more than 5 percent from 2012 — cash donations to charity from U.S. companies rose just 2.8 percent, to $4.6 billion, an annual survey by the Chronicle of Philanthropy finds.

According to data from seventy of the hundred and fifty largest U.S. companies as ranked by Fortune magazine based on annual revenue, Walmart ($311 million) gave the most in 2013 — as it has in ten of the past eleven years — followed by Wells Fargo ($275 million), Chevron Corporation ($274 million), Goldman Sachs ($263 million), and Exxon Mobil ($227 million). And while sixteen companies gave more than $100 million to charities in 2013, compared with thirteen in 2012, cash donations from both Walmart and Wells Fargo were down from the previous year.

The survey also found that the value of product donations in 2013 rose 22.8 percent on a year-over-year basis, pushing overall corporate giving in 2013 to $18.7 billion, up 17.2 percent. Halliburton topped the list, giving a total of $4.1 billion in cash and products, followed by Pfizer ($3.1 billion) and Merck ($1.9 billion) — each of which provided more than 90 percent of their contributions in the form of product donations. The Giving USA report released in June estimates that corporate giving, including cash and in-kind contributions, fell 3.2 percent in 2013 in inflation-adjusted dollars. "Nonprofits certainly appreciate in-kind gifts and all forms of corporate support," Aaron Dorfman, executive director of the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, told the Chronicle. "But what they really need and want is cash. Cash giving is hands down the most valuable and efficient way for corporations to support nonprofits."

"I wish that I could say we're seeing a huge bump in the allocation of dollars," said Mark Shamley, head of the Association of Corporate Contributions Professionals. "But we're seeing no evidence of that. What we are seeing is more purposeful philanthropy."

The survey found that some companies are using a variety of resources to help charities, including making skilled employees available to nonprofits on a pro bono basis, matching employee donations, and focusing their giving on specific priorities.For example, Medtronic, which has long matched employee gifts to local United Ways, expanded its matching program to gifts to any charity anywhere in the world. "We're encouraging our forty-six thousand employees to become personal Medtronic philanthropists," said Jacob Gayle, vice president of the company's fund.

Ben Gose, Sarah Frostenson. "Corporate Profits Surge but Cash Donations Creep Up Only 3%." Chronicle of Philanthropy 07/13/2014.