The latest data from the CECP and The Conference Board show that corporate charitable giving has leveled off over the last two years, with 2015 total giving—which includes direct corporate contributions, foundation grantmaking and noncash giving—logging in just 1 percent higher than 2013.
According to the groups’ latest Giving in Numbers survey, the stability in aggregate total giving masks a fair bit of up-and-down movement when looking at specific industries. For example, the consumer staples industry increased its median total giving not only in absolute terms but also as a proportion of revenues and pretax profits, while the health care industry reported median giving totals almost 20 percent lower than 2013 levels, along with lower figures both in terms of proportion of revenues and pretax profits. Other industries showed a mix of increases and declines in giving totals, depending largely on individual financial performance.
The more interesting data points, however, have more to do with how companies are changing their tactics to maximize their societal engagement strategies, according to the CECP. The group highlighted several key findings from the report:
- Companies are increasingly sharing information on societal commitments as an indicator of business strength, as 56 percent of companies reported environmental, social and governance information to investors or the company’s investor relations department.
- Companies are pushing employee volunteerism in a big way, and it’s paying off. Employee volunteer participation rates continued to rise to 33 percent in 2015, from 28 percent in 2013. On average, companies are now offering five different employee volunteer programs, such as employee volunteer awards, dollars-for-doers programs, companywide volunteer days, flexible scheduling, paid release time and pro bono programs.
- Companies continued to add to their community investment teams, the report shows. Full-time giving team employees rose 3 percent from 2013 to 2015, while total number of employees dropped 2 percent, demonstrating the resiliency of giving teams.
- Measuring outcomes became a more widespread practice, with some 87 percent of companies undertaking some level of impact measurement. That’s up from 79 percent in 2013.
According to Carmen Perez, the CECP’s director of evaluation and data insights, the figures relating to reporting ESG data to investors are an eye-opener.
“It shows that investors are increasingly interested in these aspects of a company,” she told Corporate Philanthropy Report. This is different from the corporate social responsibility reports that just about all companies issue, she said. This is information and data that is specifically requested by investors, be it one influential stockholder or a group of institutional investors, that can have an impact on stock prices. “Investors want to look at information that is critical to evaluating the company,” Perez said. “And they’ve decided that these investments—which are very large for most of these companies—are material information.”
Another interesting data point is the increase in the portion of companies offering pro bono programs as a key form of employee volunteer support, she said. Per the survey, pro bono programs have gone up by almost 10 percent in the past two years—a sign that companies are getting more creative about how to use the full range of resources at their disposal.
“Companies are really thinking about how they can drive change in their communities,” Perez said. “It’s a natural evolution in thinking,” she said, in terms of finding ways to leverage their employees’ skills—whether that’s the legal department, marketing, communications or elsewhere—to help their nonprofit partners.
The benefits of that are many, as evidenced by the rapid growth in pro bono and skills-based volunteerism more broadly. But it does have its drawbacks, she said.
“Many companies struggle with tracking the hours that go into pro bono,” Perez said. “That should be reported in our report as noncash giving, and it’s there in the data if they can track it. But many times companies can’t report it because they don’t really know how many hours each employee has put into a project. It’s a challenge.”
Considering the level of investment companies are putting into their giving programs, it’s likely that challenge will be addressed in due time, as having accurate data about total giving becomes ever more important—and advantageous—for companies.
For more information, including data from the Giving in Numbers survey, visit www.cecp.co.