Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Corporate Philanthropy Stepping Up and Rethinking Strategies

I was unable to attend this years Silicon Valley/San Jose Business Journal's Annual Corporate Philanthropy Awards on Nov 5, so I anxiously awaited the write-up about it in the Business Journal.

In the Silicon Valley/San Jose Business Journals's annual giving guide, they profiled three corporations, Applied Materials, Symantec and IBM, that were the top corporate givers and the ways each of them stepped up their giving in the past year. Silicon Valley Business Journal also honored the rest of top 50 corporate philanthropies, ranked by cash contributions, noting that Silicon Valley Corporate Giving fell 4 percent overall from last year. However, out of the 37 companies that had been on the list previously, 18 companies had increased their giving.

My favorite part reading about the awards was learning about the top three givers, their giving programs, and what strategies they used that enabled them to do more during these tough times.

Most notably, Applied Materials increased their corporate giving by almost 29 percent allocating the bulk of it to United Way. Applied Material's CEO brought together leaders from the philanthropic community to hear what their priorities were, before blindly giving money away.

IBM has a primary focus on supporting education and uses matching funds, doubling or tripling their employee donations, towards education. IBM also gives donations of equipment based on employee volunteer hours.

Symantec has also focused on education by increasing their giving to Teach for America Bay Area. Their focus is to align their giving with their business, by focusing on technology education for women, the environment and online safety.

This topic of businesses rethinking their giving programs was addressed by the Wall Street Journal in an article where they posed the question to corporate executives about how they balanced philanthropy with corporate objectives. "Tough Times, New Tactics. With cash tight, corporations have had to rethink their philanthropic strategies."

Peter Sands, chief executive of Standard Chartered PLC, said: "We need to reflect on the role of banks in society. If any good is to come out of the crisis, it is that banks and bankers reflect more on their role in the broad economy to make sure their impact on society is positive" and he adds: "We want our employees to own the various projects we've committed to."

John Chambers, the CEO of Cisco, seeks to have the company focus on "how to increase the multiplier effects of giving—through partnering with governments, non-governmental organizations and other companies 'to leverage our dollars tenfold.' "

And from Sophie Gasperment, the chief executive of the Body Shop International, "who continues to run the cosmetics company on the founding belief 'that business can be a force for good in society' .
The role for the Body Shop is to team up with experts who are working directly on the problem, and to raise awareness of the issue with Body Shop customers."
I applaud the Business Journal for sponsoring this annual event as they are doing a great service to the area non-profits and the corporate philanthropy programs, by celebrating their philanthropy. Times are tough and next year the challenge will be to find businesses that have come up with more innovative ideas to align their giving with their corporate objectives.

I would love to see at next year's awards and forum, the top companies asked the question: "what were your innovative strategies that helped you rethink your corporate philanthropy?"


Tom Bailey said...

This is great information to read. I would not have expected AMAT and Symantec to be up there with IBM in giving. But symantec is probably doing great... their virus protection is so widely used and needed.

Amat was a surprise though.

Thanks for sharing this information.

Lalia Helmer said...

Hi Tom,
Thanks for your comment.I agree that were some surprises as some corp are not general thought of as being philanthropic. That is what makes these awards so beneficial in making the public more aware of these companies and their philanthropy programs.