The Conference Board: Economic Downturn Will Have Major Effects on Corporate Philanthropy in 2009
March 3, 2009 — Issues related to the economic downturn dominate the concerns of corporate giving officers polled in a study by The Conference Board released today on the philanthropy plans of major U.S. companies.
The report, The 2009 Corporate Philanthropy Agenda: How the Economic Downturn is Affecting Corporate Giving, was based on a February 2009 survey of 158 companies on planned changes in corporate giving programs.
“How their companies are faring overall financially is very much on the minds of leading U.S. companies when allotting their corporate philanthropy monies,” says Carolyn Cavicchio, Senior Research Associate, Global Corporate Citizenship, The Conference Board. “There is a definite shift toward more critical business issues and an increased emphasis on measuring giving outcomes.”
Limits on budgetary resources (56 percent), the current economic downturn in general (50 percent), aligning more closely with business needs (47 percent), and directions from the CEO and/or Board (46 percent) are the leading factors taken into consideration when giving officers plan their 2009 contributions agenda.
The economic crisis came late enough in the year that it had minimal impact on 2008 giving budgets. By the end of 2008, 81 percent of companies had spent all of their allocated contributions budget. Only 13 percent of companies reported 4th quarter contributions budget cuts.
In contrast, 45 percent of those surveyed had already implemented a reduction in their 2009 giving budget and 16 percent were now considering it. Thirty-five percent said that they would make fewer grants in 2009 and 22 percent are considering doing the same. Twenty-one percent said that they would make smaller grants and 27 percent were considering doing so.
When asked what they anticipate as their biggest 2009 challenge, giving officers most often said an increase in the number of grant requests, followed by inadequate financial resources, a decline in their corporate foundation endowment, and measuring results/outcomes.
Where Resources are Going
In terms of 2009 programs, event sponsorship will see the biggest decrease, with resources falling for 55 percent of survey respondents. Volunteerism will see the biggest increase, with 45 percent of the survey respondents reporting a resources increase.
As far as focus areas, arts and culture will see the biggest drop, with 34 percent reporting a decrease in resources devoted to the arts. Workforce development was close behind at 32 percent. Environment/sustainability/climate change will see the biggest increase (40 percent).
With respect to regions of the world, giving within the U.S. will be mostly flat. For international givers, China is most increasing (21 percent) in importance.
The principal management issue on the minds of most respondents is measurement of results/outcomes, which increased in importance for more than half of those surveyed. This was also the only issue for which no respondents reported a decrease in importance. Brand visibility/awareness was cited as increasing in importance for 48 percent, while the relationship to broader corporate sustainability goals was cited by 46 percent.
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