Corporate Leaders Tout Philanthropy's Benefits Amid Grim Financial News
Feb. 24, 2009, Chronicle of Philanthropy — On Monday, Robert L. Corcoran, president of the GE Foundation, stood cheerily alongside three other corporate-philanthropy leaders on the balcony above the floor of the New York Stock Exchange to ring the opening bell.
The event was part of “international corporate philanthropy day,” organized by the nonprofit Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy to celebrate and reaffirm businesses’ commitment to charitable giving.
But the excitement of Monday’s bell-ringing ceremony quickly gave way to the reality of the dismal economy.
At 12:30, one of the top headlines on The Wall Street Journal’s Web site read, “Markets Wilt as Tech, GE Sink.” Three minutes after the trading day concluded, a news alert on The New York Times’ home page announced that the market had fallen to its lowest levels since 1997.
Such are the challenges facing many corporate-philanthropy leaders today. They are striving to make the case for why their companies should give back to charities as profits tumble and boards take a closer look at every aspect of the business.
Mr. Corcoran and others who lead corporate foundations say companies that are able to demonstrate how their philanthropy advances business goals have the best chance of maintaining their giving during the recession.
“If it’s about spare change, and pure generosity is the only measure of success, then it’s going to be subject to economic changes, up or down,” said Stanley S. Litow, president of the IBM International Foundation, in a meeting of corporate-philanthropy executives that followed the bell-ringing ceremony. “If it’s tied to your business strategy and is building shareholder value, then it will fare well because it will be about real change.”
Mr. Litow, Mr. Corcoran, and the presidents of the General Mills and Moody’s Foundations met in a conference room at the Stock Exchange on Monday, while their companies’ chief executives participated in a closed-door event in midtown moderated by Tom Brokaw.