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26 Jan. 2021 | Comments (0)

Looking ahead in 2021, the momentum behind corporate giving in 2020 will be sustained. Last year, 61 percent of the companies surveyed said that their year-end philanthropic giving totals were substantially more than planned with a few doubling and one tripling the amount from their original budget. Just over twenty percent of respondents projected that their giving levels will remain flat and 18 percent of respondents decreased their level of giving.

While 2020 took a toll on many companies, it is important to note that a sizable portion of the respondent companies that increased their giving did so despite poor overall financial performance. Such generosity is a testament to the importance of addressing the issues to their employees, customers, and the communities in which they operate.

Outlook for 2021

  • 45 percent of respondents expect to maintain this higher level of giving;
  • 22 percent of respondents will increase from their higher level of giving; and
  • 33 percent of respondents will give less in 2021 than in 2020.

These results and more below are from a survey conducted by The Conference Board Environmental, Social & Governance (ESG) Center. The survey was sent at the end of November 2020 to 102 public and private companies with median revenues of more than US $28 billion; 51 responded.

While spikes in giving are often observed in response to natural disasters, these levels have not been seen since 9/11. The breadth of the giving has been in response to four crises: 1) pandemic; 2) economic; 3) humanitarian; and 4) racial justice. By way of example, just under 60 percent of respondents used incremental funds to support their COVID-19 response that has helped with healthcare needs and safety nets such as food banks, housing support, and the move to virtual learning in schools. Similarly, 55% of respondents used incremental funds to help break down structural racism and support equity initiatives for people of color.

Many employees, like their companies and communities, have been hurting yet their concern and generosity has shown through. Company programs to support their employees’ philanthropic and community endeavors slowed during the early months of 2020 due to safety concerns and economic uncertainty but have come back strong. By comparison, after the 2008 economic downturn, it took some companies several years to get back to pre-2008 giving levels.

Close to 90 percent of respondents offered virtual volunteer opportunities last year and 30 percent have resumed offering hands-on/in-person volunteer opportunities. Of the 70 percent that have not resumed hands-on/in-person volunteering, 92 percent will not be doing so through the first quarter of 2021, thus signaling that there is still a great concern over the risk of encouraging employees to volunteer in person. While many company-sponsored volunteer opportunities were suspended, knowing that their employees were volunteering on their own at food banks and organizations such as, Meals on Wheels, 77 percent of respondent companies offered guidance on safe volunteering practices.

Additional survey results include:

  • Close to a third of respondents increased support to their nonprofit partners in 2020 to help them weather the storm; 48 percent kept their funding flat;
  • Almost three-quarters of respondents un-restricted grants to help their nonprofit partners keep their doors open and retain staff, thus continue to be able to provide services during multiple crises;
  • Just over two-thirds of respondents made contributions outside of their regular giving geography;
  • While 83 percent of the 37 percent of respondents that increased the cap of their employee matching gifts program did so temporarily; 30 percent increased their overall cap, 33 percent increased their cap for COVID-19 specific support, and 37 percent increased for their cap for racial/social justice organizations;
  • For those companies with an employee relief fund, 30 percent expanded their criteria to receive support based on the pandemic and the 30 percent of respondents that did not have an employee relief fund, implemented one in 2020.
  • About the Author:Jeff Hoffman

    Jeff Hoffman

    Jeff Hoffman is an accomplished corporate executive who has served on the global stage. Through board and commission leadership roles, he has a distinguished history working with business, non-profit,…

    Full Bio | More from Jeff Hoffman


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