Whether the reputation is appropriate or not, corporate philanthropy has long been associated with big companies making tax-deductible donations to companies and then losing interest as soon as their pens leave the signing line. This is often a result of the association between corporations’ for-profit status and their philanthropic activities, and it’s a stigma that hurts even companies that give with the most unselfish intentions. Today, however, corporations and other companies are turning that stereotype on its head thanks to new philanthropic approaches that emphasize measurable, specific solutions to particular issues and focus on social impact over profit.
Much of corporate philanthropy’s recent successes are the result of corporate foundations, or separate, philanthropically-focused organizations that are distinct legal entities and that receive funding from their parent corporations. Many corporate foundations focus their effort on issues or causes that connect back to their parent corporation’s mission statement. In fact, Corporate Citizenship published a report that revealed 73% of all corporate foundations have giving strategies that are directly linked to their corresponding company’s focus. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, for example, distributes funds to support improved science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education in the state of Washington. Focusing on STEM and the sciences allows the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to draw on the technology-based strengths of the company it is associated with: Microsoft, which Bill Gates co-founded in 1975.
The report also highlights the increasing cooperation between corporate philanthropists and nonprofit organizations with similar charitable goals. Banks, for example, often coordinate gifts with nonprofits to help educate low-income Americans on how to effectively save money and avoid predatory lending, which take advantage of the banks’ financial expertise. This variety of teamwork is also evident as delivery companies like UPS and Western Union transport supplies and aid for nonprofits to help address the ongoing refugee crisis.
Other findings from the report indicate that 54% of all corporate foundations have already measured an impact from their efforts, and 74% of corporations intend on measuring long term societal impacts from their philanthropy. These positive developments in corporate philanthropy suggest that we should look forward to seeing even more tangible, healthy change from the joint efforts of nonprofit groups and corporate foundations in the future.
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