Bill Gates, Microsoft founder and self-described computer geek, donated £0.6 billion to charity on his 43rd birthday in 1998. Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffet and Bill and Melinda Gates are the leading charitable donors in the United States. Not only the super-rich contribute; most Americans give to their favourite charity. Companies also participate in philanthropy, donating cash, products, employee services and time. American corporations have made charitable giving an integral part of their corporate philosophy.
Corporate Charitable Giving
Charitable giving boosts a company's bottom line. Every dollar donated, whether in cash or services, results in a 200-300 per cent return in profits. Charitable giving is good business. Companies large and small donate. Small companies with less than 100 employees donate an average of 6 per cent of their company profits to charity. Small businesses are an important piece of the charitable scene in communities throughout the country. Yet it is the large companies that receive national press, recognition, and have the means to make huge donations.
The Largest Corporate Givers
There are different ways to determine the top corporate givers. There is total dollars donated, the dollar value of services or products contributed, or the percentage of company revenues or profits given away. The recession that began in 2006 reduced corporate giving as company revenues and profits suffered. The corporate reshuffling in recent years will again rework as the economy gets back on track. The largest corporate contributor in 2003 in terms of the percentage of cash donated was Target. The largest contributions in terms of straight dollars was Wal-Mart. Both companies make the top corporate givers list just about every year. Companies close behind Target and Wal-Mart in corporate giving for the years 2003-2004 were: Nationwide Insurance, Coca Cola, Safeway, Best Buy, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Boeing, Caterpillar, Aetna, Bank of America, Johnson & Johnson, and Altria Group.
Many companies provide products and services in lieu of large cash contributions. The drug companies are prominent in this area of giving. Pfizer ranks number one in terms of total giving, adding cash contributions and product donations. Other companies donating generous amounts of both cash and products and services are Bristol-Myers Squibb, Merck, Safeway, Walt Disney, Johnson & Johnson, Kroger, Microsoft, Target, and Boeing.
2009 Charitable Giver Winners
The following companies made the top ten honours roll for corporate giving in 2009: Wal-Mart, AT&T, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Exxon Mobil, Johnson & Johnson, Chevron Corporation, GE, Target, and Microsoft. Companies often steer their time, effort, and funds to charities that help retain customers and attract new ones. Examples of corporate charity sponsorship aimed at presenting the company to current and potential customers are McGraw Hill's advocacy for literacy programs, Coca Cola's Olympic team sponsorship, and Avon's breast cancer events support.