News and analysis
July 14, 2013

Big Businesses Expect Modest Giving Growth

Courtesy of Charity: Water

Google set out to remedy a common problem in parts of the world where wells have been drilled but no longer work. It gave $5-million to Charity: Water to install sensors that track whether water is flowing.

America’s biggest companies expect a third-straight year of modest increases in cash gifts to charities in 2013, according to a Chronicle survey.

Donations grew by 2.7 percent in 2012, to $5.3-billion, for 106 companies that provided two years’ worth of data.

But growth will probably be slower for many companies this year. More than three-quarters of corporate leaders said their giving budgets would be about the same in 2013. About 16 percent said they will give more, and 6 percent will donate less.

Businesses awarded a median of 0.8 percent of their 2011 pretax profits to charity in 2012. That’s lower than in any of the previous six years, when the percentage of profits going to charities varied from 1 percent to 1.4 percent.

Among other findings:

  • Wells Fargo gave away the most cash, $315.8-million, increasing its giving to support a new program that provides down-payment assistance to home buyers in neighborhoods with high foreclosure rates. Walmart, which had held the top spot for the previous seven years, ranked second in 2012, at $311.6-million.
  • Fourteen companies gave more than $100-million. The median cash amount given in 2012 was $25-million.
  • Donations of products continue to grow much faster than gifts of cash. Overall corporate giving, when both cash and products are counted, rose by 20.2 percent in 2012, to $18.6-billion. Pfizer held the top spot for the fourth year in a row, giving $3.1-billion in cash and products.

The Chronicle study looks at the nation’s largest companies, but small and midsize corporations may be expanding their giving budgets more quickly.

According to “Giving USA,” an annual tally of philanthropy that was released last month, giving by corporations of all sizes jumped 9.9 percent after inflation in 2012, to $18.15-billion.

Dig deeper: See a searchable database of information from more than 100 companies, plus more details about the state of corporate giving.

Emma Carew Grovum and Sarah Frostenson contributed to this article.