Giving back to the community is good for businesses. It is an excellent way to promote one’s products and services while combining the pleasure of a great exposure with the pleasurable sense of helping others. Also, in addition to gaining customers, doing charitable works will open doors for opportunities to meet other business people – thus, networking.
But of course, aside from business and above anything else, investing in the community is a better way to give back to all the people who helped. Plus, it gives an intangible feeling of satisfaction of at least trying to make the world a better place.
Having said that, Americans like to think that they are generous people. In fact, according to the Science of Generosity survey, two-thirds of Americans agree that being generous is very important. But are Americans really generous? And especially the American businesses, are they giving enough?
In 2015, Fortune 500 identified the twenty most generous American companies by cash contributions – which in total, amounted to 3.5 billion dollars. In the list are:
- Gilead Sciences ($446.7 million)
- Walmart ($301 million)
- Wells Fargo ($281.3 million)
- Goldman Sachs Group ($276.4 million)
- ExxonMobil ($268 million)
- Chevron ($225 million)
- JPMorgan Chase ($224 million)
- Bank of America ($168.5 million)
- Alphabet (Google) ($167.8 million)
- Citigroup ($142.8 million)
- Microsoft ($135.2 million)
- Merck ($132.5 million)
- Coca-Cola ($117.3 million)
- AT&T ($112.9 million)
- Target ($111.5 million)
- General Mills ($105 million)
- Pfizer ($93.3 million)
- Kroger ($76.5 million)
- PNC Financial Services ($72 million)
- Morgan Stanley ($62.5 million)
While these amounts might be enough to help those in need, does their money really help them? And how much charity is enough anyway?
Almost all charitable businesses believe that they are doing something really different by placing a cause at the center of their marketing. And a lot of large corporations have a history of giving back. For example, Walmart, through its foundation awards, grants scholarships and donates money; or Johnson and Johnson, which recently pledged one million dollars for an environmental cause.
According to a blog by Style Wise, “It’s not that charity is bad. But charity is also a bandaid placed on broken systems.” Even though it’s really nice to know that these hugely profitable enterprises are helping to change people’s lives – charity, most especially for companies, have become big business that delays permanent infrastructure and job development. For instance, Trump’s charitable works have been viewed as just political propaganda alongside his plans – making him questioned about his credibility as President (as reported by Trump Today, but that is a different story).
However, while ugly sides of the story aren’t inevitable, huge businesses should realize that not every effort has to always include financial components.
Fred Koury, CEO of Smart Business Network Inc., stated some non-financial ways to give back:
Give more time. Aside from financial help, a labor boost can be of help as well. Donating employee time to do some basic cleaning and organizing won’t hurt.
Be an adviser. Sharing ideas and knowledge and offering advice to help another charity to navigate through its problems are also helpful.
Hire employees from the community. There are a lot of skillful people, who are either physically or mentally disabled, that can be a valuable addition to companies. When having job openings, it might be better to consider all candidates.
Offer services for free. Providing services for non-profit needs will go a long way. For example, consider donating unused machines (i.e., photocopy machines).
The posted question, “Are they giving enough?” or “How much charity is enough?” is quite old. But if it should be answered, then maybe, a better response is: Just a little more.
US businesses might be giving enough – enough financial help. But beyond that, it is questionable.