Times are clearly tough. Our stock market lost more than a third of its value in 2008. We're looking at national unemployment rates near 10%, and companies have been reducing dividends at a rate not seen in more than 50 years. So, are companies cutting back on their charitable giving? Well, actually, many are not!
According to the folks at the Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy (CECP), who surveyed 140 corporations, 53% of respondents upped their giving during 2008, down a smidge from 56% who did so in 2007. And these increases were often substantial, too, with 27% bumping up their donations by 10% or more. The median annual giving totaled almost $31 million.
You might assume that the 53% were companies that fared rather well during the downturn. But no -- among firms with pre-tax profits down in the period, fully 51% still upped their giving.
Good or bad?
So, that's all good news, right? In many ways, yes, absolutely. There is clearly a lot of need in the world, and corporations tend to have a lot of money.
But there's a dark side to corporate giving: The money that companies donate isn't really the CEO's money to give -- it belongs to the shareholders, who rarely have a say in where the money is sent. Berkshire Hathaway's
The status quo is not all bad, though. Corporate philanthropy has its benefits. It can boost a company's reputation, for example, warming the hearts of customers. This year, for example, you might be impressed to learn that CECP gave its "Large Company Award" to Western Union
Learn more about how companies can do well by doing good:
Longtime Fool contributor Selena Maranjian owns shares of General Electric and Berkshire Hathaway. Western Union and Berkshire Hathaway are selections of both Motley Fool Stock Advisor and Motley Fool Inside Value. The Fool owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway. Try our investing newsletters free for 30 days. The Motley Fool is Fools writing for Fools.