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Best Practices
9/26/2014 12:00 AM

Doing a materiality assessment can help companies identify which areas and social issues to focus philanthropic resources on.

For some companies, choosing where to focus their philanthropic investments can be a challenge. Some industries have it easier than others in this regard, as evidenced by the comparably high giving budgets (especially for in-kind donations) of pharmaceutical firms, computer hardware and software companies, financial services firms and others whose products and services are easily leveraged on behalf of charitable groups and social causes.

For companies whose products aren’t directly tied to a specific and obvious social cause, there is an exercise that can help evaluate various options and identify which areas and issues fit best. The concept of materiality originates from the world of financial accounting and refers to the kinds of information that companies should include in financial statements to ensure that investors and other stakeholders have all of the truly relevant information they need to make informed decisions. In the world of corporate social responsibility, the concept has been adapted to include all of the vital information about a company’s performance and impact on society—at all levels—so that management, investors and stakeholders can make similarly informed decisions.

“By soliciting input from internal and external stakeholders, a materiality exercise can assist a company not only in finding the basis from which to develop their corporate citizenship program, but also to ensure they will receive the support of those individuals who matter most to the company,” said Elizabeth Rogers of the Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship.

In a blog post on the subject, Rogers cited the work of CSR consulting group AccountAbility, which argues that if companies want to remain competitive, they need to develop new approaches and processes for determining materiality that include the ability to:

  • Discern which issues are most material to the company, its stakeholders, industry and the wider operating environment.
  • Develop appropriate mechanisms and processes that enable continual learning and assessment of material priorities, and how performance improvements can occur.
  • Manage materiality, based on these insights, in ways that anchor sustainability issues at the heart of a company’s operating system.

In the group’s 2012 report, Redefining Materiality II: Why It Matters, Who’s Involved and What It Means for Corporate Leaders and Boards, AccountAbility identified a framework for determining materiality that includes two main components:

  • Issue identification. According to the group, companies must identify the widest possible selection of environmental, social and economic issues that are or might be relevant to the business and to its stakeholders by doing the following:
    • Identify a long list of issues relevant to direct short-term financial performance, ability to deliver on strategy and policies, best practice norms exhibited by peers, stakeholder behavior and concerns, and societal norms.
    • Enable all significant stakeholders’ viewpoints to feed into the analysis.
    • Draw on internal and external sources of information.
  • Issue prioritization. This next step, AccountAbility says, is needed in order to sift out the issues according to how significant they are to the company and its stakeholders. Specifically, companies need to:
    • Choose internal and external criteria to identify those issues relevant to drivers of business strategy and performances, and those issues that are most important to the stakeholders.
    • Decide on thresholds on the internal and external axis to determine materiality. This may be a simple division into material/not material categories or it could be more sophisticated, indicating a scale of levels of materiality, the group says.

By going through these exercises—identifying the material information about the company and its interplay and impact on society—firms will likely find the most significant social issues that they have a hand in and can play a role in addressing, and revise their philanthropic strategies accordingly.

For more information, visit the group’s website at

9/23/2014 12:00 AM

The Allstate Foundation supports charitable groups focused on teen safety, economic empowerment and literacy, domestic violence, diversity, and disaster response.


Known for its “You’re in good hands” slogan, Allstate is the nation’s second-largest personal lines insurer, protecting approximately 16 million households through its various subsidiaries. The company offers homeowners and property/casualty insurance, as well as auto coverage, through its flagship Allstate Protection and Esurance segments, and life insurance through its Allstate Life and American Heritage Life brands. The company also sells annuities and other investment products through its Allstate Financial subsidiary. In 2013, the company reported sales of about $34.5 billion and employed about 39,400 workers.


Allstate conducts its philanthropy primarily through the Allstate Foundation, which supports a range of charitable groups and programs at the national, state and local levels. Key giving areas for the foundation are as follows:

  • Teen Safe Driving. The foundation supports numerous programs aimed at saving young lives and instilling safe driving attitudes and behaviors. The Teen Safe Driving program includes the following components:
    • Keep the Drive, a national teen-led smart driving movement that educates teens about the issues, impacts the way they think and act in the car, and empowers them to become smart driving activists in their schools and communities.
    • Community outreach to surround teens with smart driving messages and involve key teen influencers, including parents, in reinforcing smart driving behaviors.
    • Leadership and advocacy education to advance public understanding of this issue and inform public policy decision-makers about the value and importance of graduated driver licensing laws on the state and national levels.
    • Public awareness to elevate teen driving as a chronic public health issue through targeted social marketing and public relations campaigns.
  • Economic empowerment. The foundation seeks to empower Americans with the economic resources and knowledge they need to make informed decisions about their financial future. The foundation’s funding priorities in this area are:
    • Domestic violence. In 2005, the foundation joined with the National Network to End Domestic Violence to bring financial education, matched savings programs, job readiness and job training, and microenterprise opportunities to survivors of domestic violence.
    • Financial and economic literacy. The foundation supports various programs focused on helping Americans build a more secure financial future.
  • Inclusion and diversity. The foundation supports programs that bring tolerance, inclusion and value to people of all backgrounds regardless of ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, age or physical challenges. This includes fostering a generation free of bias and intolerance through youth education programs and supporting other efforts to encourage communities to be free of prejudice and discrimination.
  • Disaster response. The foundation supports various efforts to rebuild lives after a natural disaster strikes. The most recent example of this is the $1 million Good Hands Fund, which the foundation established to assist local nonprofit organizations with their recovery from Superstorm Sandy and meet the increased need for services. In addition, the foundation matches dollar-for-dollar employee and agency owner donations of up to $100,000 to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund through the company’s annual Employee Giving Campaign.

Additionally, the foundation offers several grant programs to support charitable organizations where Allstate employees, agency owners and personal financial representatives volunteer. These include:

  • Helping Hands Grants and Allstate Agency Hands in the Community Grants. Through these programs, the foundation awards $500 and $1,000 grants, respectively, to nonprofit organizations where Allstate employees, agency owners and financial representatives volunteer.
  • Matching Gifts for Higher Education. Through this program, the foundation doubles the personal contributions that Allstate employees, agency owners and personal financial representatives make to eligible institutions of higher education, up to $5,000 per year. Funds are directed toward the school’s general scholarship fund.

For more information, visit the company’s website.

9/18/2014 12:00 AM

Foot Locker, through the Foot Locker Foundation, supports educational initiatives and programs that encourage health and well-being among the nation’s youth through physical activity.


Foot Locker is a leading global athletic retailer, with some 3,464 stores in 23 countries in North America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand. Through its Foot Locker, Kids Foot Locker, Lady Foot Locker, SIX:02, Footaction, Champs Sports, Runners Point and Sidestep retail stores, as well as its Web-based sales channels, the company is the number-one seller of name-brand athletic footwear in the United States. For the 2014 fiscal year, the company posted sales of roughly $6.5 billion and employed about 43,500 workers worldwide.


Foot Locker conducts its philanthropy mainly through the Foot Locker Foundation, which the company established in 2001 with the mission to promote a better world for today’s youth through support for educational initiatives and programs that encourage health and well-being through physical activity.

To that end, the foundation launched the Foot Locker Scholar Athletes program in 2011. The program awards up to 20 scholarships of $20,000 each to students who demonstrate academic excellence and strong leadership skills in sports and within their local communities.

The foundation also has a long-standing partnership with the United Negro College Fund, for which Foot Locker raises money through its On Our Feet initiative. The annual event has raised millions of dollars for UNCF scholarships over the years, benefiting more than 700 individual students.

In addition, the foundation supports a number of national charitable groups, including the American Cancer Society, Fred Jordan Missions and the Two Ten Footwear Foundation. And the company encourages its customers to give to charity through the in-store promotion of local charitable groups and fundraising events.

For further information, visit the company’s website.

News Briefs
10/2/2014 12:00 AM

Toyota Motor North America has pledged $1 million to the Detroit Institute of Arts as part of a “grand bargain” to help Detroit emerge from bankruptcy.

Toyota Motor North America has pledged $1 million toward the Detroit Institute of Arts’ commitment to raise $100 million as part of a “grand bargain” that will help the city of Detroit emerge from bankruptcy, support city pensioners and protect the museum’s art collection for the public. According to the DIA, the “grand bargain” will provide Detroit’s pensioners more than $800 million from the DIA, local and national foundations and the state of Michigan over a 20-year period. The funds will be directed to a supporting organization of the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan and then disbursed for city pension payments over the next 20 years. As part of the agreement, the city of Detroit will transfer ownership of the DIA’s art collection, building and related assets to the private nonprofit corporation that currently operates the museum, Detroit Institute of Arts Inc.

News Briefs
9/22/2014 12:00 AM

Costco Wholesale Corp. has pledged $10 million to Children’s Hospital Los Angeles to support health care for children in Southern California.

Costco Wholesale Corp. has pledged $10 million to Children’s Hospital Los Angeles in support of the hospital’s mission of delivering high-quality patient care to children in Southern California. Since 1983, Costco has donated more than $16 million to CHLA. Costco club members contribute at the registers each May as part of the company’s monthlong fundraising campaign; Costco employees volunteer their time to lead such efforts and engage the members; Costco business partners fundraise for the hospital at various charity events; and the corporation matches all the gifts raised by each of these activities. The latest commitment will support CHLA’s Children’s Fund, which is dedicated to the hospital’s research and clinical care programs.

News Briefs
9/10/2014 12:00 AM

Medtronic launched a $17 million initiative to support projects that expand access to care and management of chronic, noncommunicable diseases.

Medtronic Philanthropy, the charitable giving arm of medical device maker Medtronic, has launched a new $17 million initiative to support community-based demonstration projects that expand access to care and management of chronic, noncommunicable diseases such as heart disease and diabetes. The program, dubbed HealthRise, will be launched in select communities in Brazil, India, South Africa and the United States. HealthRise projects will include comprehensive community health system assessments led by public health experts, community organizations and local leaders to identify barriers and gaps within that system for underserved populations, followed by grants to local organizations to improve community-based health care services that help people living with chronic diseases better manage their day-to-day health. Using a “Continuum of Care” approach, the grants will primarily be used to recruit and train frontline health care workers, conduct patient empowerment and education programs and support local stakeholder engagement and policy efforts that will advance access to NCD health care, Medtronic said.


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  • Meet the Editor

    Nicholas King

    Nicholas King has served as editor of Corporate Philanthropy Report since 2007, and he continues to be impressed with the philanthropic efforts of the nation’s business sector.

    Drawing on an educational background in English and environmental policy, Nicholas began his journalism career in 2000 when he was brought on as editor of Environmental Laboratory Washington Report, a niche-market subscription-based newsletter serving the environmental testing industry. After seven years of honing his craft, Nicholas expanded his writing/editing portfolio to an entirely new field of interest - corporate philanthropy. As editor of Corporate Philanthropy Report, he stays abreast of the latest developments affecting corporate giving—and the charitable/nonprofit sector more broadly—providing his readers the “need to know” information vital for making the best use of their limited charitable dollars.

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