Big U.S. Firms Take Strategic Approach to Corporate Philanthropy


If you think leaders of philanthropy in big companies are walking wallets, you are grossly mistaken.

Big businesses now have fewer grants, fewer areas of focus and tend to give higher amounts to fewer recipients. Since the recession, big companies have drastically narrowed down their focus areas, according to Margaret M. Coady, Director, Committee on Corporate Philanthropy. Businesses are now taking a strategic approach to corporate philanthropy. Here are some trends and tips about corporate giving among big businesses:

  1. The number one priority for big businesses is employee engagement. They want to partner with organizations that offer authentic, meaningful opportunities for their employees.
  2. Big businesses are looking for deep, honest and complete relationships with non-profit partners.
  3. They want partners who understand where their business is going, what their challenges are. They do not want to hear about their history or grants funded in the past.
  4. If they tell you that a proposal or an idea doesn’t work, do not pester them. Do not return six weeks later with another idea. It will never work.
  5. Big corporate foundation staff do not want to be treated like “wallets with legs.”
  6. Big businesses want value for their brand in engagement opportunities. Their employees live around a powerful brand identity.
  7. When pitching an idea, never suggest what a competing company is doing. They do not care and this is an irritant.
  8. Most corporate foundation leaders spend most of their time developing and strengthening internal and external relationships.
  9. Budget takes top priority in evaluating proposals.
  10. Cold proposals are a waste of time.
  11. Explore matching gifts and donor-advised funds especially when working with companies like Ernst & Young, Morgan Stanley etc.

These thoughts came from Ellen J. Glazerman, Executive Director, Ernst & Young Foundation and Joan Steinberg, Executive Director, Morgan Stanley Foundation at a closing plenary session of a CASE conference on corporate and foundation relations held in New York on June 8, 2012.

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