Many companies devote substantial resources to their philanthropy, and they work hard to publicize their giving.  Some give generously because it’s simply the right thing to do, but many corporations also use their giving programs to enhance their bottom lines.

In a recent Conference Board survey, 51 out of 77 large North American corporations surveyed said that using their philanthropy to further business goals was one of their top three priorities this year.*  These business goals include enhancement of overall corporate image and reputation, positive consumer purchasing and investment decisions, and customer loyalty.

But a new survey from the National Consumers League and Fleishman-Hillard calls into question the bottom line effects of corporate philanthropy:

The survey found that 76 percent of American consumers agree that to be socially responsible, companies should place employee salary and wage increases above making charitable contributions.  Similarly, the survey found that 76 percent believe that a company’s treatment of its employees plays a big role in consumer purchasing decisions.

The survey was conducted with 800 adults nationwide through telephone interviews.  Only three percent of survey respondents identified charitable donations as the chief determinant of a company’s degree of social responsibility.

As in other domains, it doesn’t help us to be angels abroad if we’re fireside devils.


* “Linking Charity to Company’s Bottom Line Is Top Concern” by Ian Wilhelm, in the June 1, 2006 issue of the Chronicle of Philanthropy.

Albert Ruesga blogs on foundations and nonprofits at White Courtesy Telephone.