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3 Emerging Trends in Corporate Philanthropy

By Sarah Anderson July 16, 2020

Corporate philanthropy has been active for many years, with some companies embracing it more seriously than others. Over the last few years, the corporate sector has seen a groundswell of demand from employees and customers for companies to set a corporate ethos and live up to its values. We didn’t know whether this feeling was shared among business leadership until last year.

In the summer of 2019, the Business Roundtable (BRT), an association of CEOs working to promote a thriving U.S. economy and expanded opportunity for all Americans through sound public policy, asserted that the purpose of a corporation is to “promote an economy that serves all Americans.” This is a startling departure from the typical purpose, which had been to generate profits and return value to shareholders. And now, in the summer of 2020, we have a glaring spotlight on peoples’ needs — and the business world’s reaction to those needs — as we fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

To find out whether the BRT’s directive was shared across all segments and sizes of corporate America, Salesforce commissioned a study from Beagle Research to determine what executives thought about the assertion and what, if anything, they were doing about it. The study, “Philanthropy’s Expanding Role in the Corporation,” included more than 500 companies of all sizes.

What the study found was that small companies (with 0-1,000 employees), usually with more limited resources, are not as far along on the social responsibility track as large companies. This was not surprising. The expectation that medium-size companies (with 1,000–10,000 employees) would fall somewhere between small and large companies wasn’t exactly correct. We learned that medium-size companies were actually much more aligned with large companies in this regard, and that all companies have experienced a new or enhanced appreciation for philanthropy work in the face of the pandemic.

The study included over 500 companies of all sizes.

The study included over 500 companies of all sizes.

Here’s what we learned about where companies land on the corporate social responsibility (CSR) spectrum:

  1. Many are aware of the benefits of CSR programs and why they’re important.

    Of the medium and large companies, 64% already have some form of philanthropic outreach in place. That number drops to just over half when we include small companies as well.

    The vast majority of all companies have a strong understanding of the benefits of corporate philanthropy, like how employees are more likely to recommend their company as a great place to work if their company offers a corporate philanthropy program (77% of companies were aware of this particular benefit).

  2. They care about giving back to their communities.

    Despite growing economic pressures on businesses of all sizes, 82%of medium and large companies say their employees have inquired about starting a workplace giving and volunteering program. In addition, coronavirus has made employees even more aware of community needs (65% of all respondents) and inspired them to think about how to support those communities in the face of the crisis (64%). Only 3% of the respondents said the pandemic hadn’t changed their thinking at all.

  3. The majority would welcome guidance and technology.

    Of all the respondents, 23% said they had no experience running a corporate philanthropy program. While the majority of medium-size companies (65%) say they’ve started a program and continue to support it, 84% of all companies surveyed said they would welcome technology and free information that enables businesses to offer corporate philanthropy programs to employees while minimizing the impact on the business. This indicates that there is plenty of room for growth in this area. Very few companies are claiming to have mastered corporate philanthropy.

In general, corporate executives are embracing workplace giving and volunteering. Whether that’s because of the Business Roundtable’s assertion, employees’ requests for giving programs, or just a shift in corporate culture remains to be seen. What is clear, however, is that now is an excellent time to explore workplace giving programs, both because communities need them and because employees are demanding them.

Companies can go it alone and develop programs from scratch, partner with a corporate giving organization, such as United Way, deploy corporate philanthropy technology to facilitate and streamline giving and volunteering, or a combination of these three. All efforts have the potential to help business fulfill the BRT’s new purpose of promoting an economy that serves all Americans.

To learn more about corporate executives’ attitudes and actions as they pertain to corporate philanthropy, download Beagle Research’s full report, Philanthropy’s Expanding Role in the Corporation.

About the Author

Sarah Anderson, director of product marketing for Philanthropy Cloud

Sarah Anderson is a director of product marketing for Philanthropy Cloud. After spending 12 years as an editor for consumer-facing technology magazines, she turned her attention to marketing SaaS-based B2B enterprise solutions.