All Articles Leadership Management Trends and best practices in corporate giving

Trends and best practices in corporate giving

4 min read


The holidays are a great time to get to know your colleagues through workplace activities, including parties and programs that give back. In the first post of this two-part series, I reached out to Anna Post and shared 10 ways to mind your manners at work during the holidays.

Here, I talked with Ken Berger, president and CEO of  Charity Navigator, a nonprofit that evaluates charities in the U.S., and ConAgra Foods Vice President of Corporate Affairs and President of the ConAgra Foods Foundation Christopher P. Kircher to find out the trends and best practices of corporate giving. Also, see how SmartBrief is contributing to a good cause this season.

According to Charity Navigator’s Holiday Report, those who gave last holiday season plan to give again, with 57% expecting to contribute at the same level. Berger expects corporate giving to be flat compared to last year. “This year, I believe companies are trying very hard to continue to fund the charities that they’ve historically funded,” he said. “But few corporations are looking to invest in new philanthropic causes or make substantial, multiyear grants.”

7 best practices for corporate giving

Berger shared the following best practices for companies making charitable contributions.

  • Create a budget. Use the 1% of profits as a starting point and see if you can increase that percentage by augmenting your cash gifts with product donations and by volunteering.
  • Research charities before you align your brand with one. Well-intentioned corporate philanthropy will only weaken faith in your firm if you affiliate with a charity caught in highly publicized scandal.
  • Look for financially strong charities. Learn about the financial health and accountability and transparency of charities through publicly available tools.
  • Investigate the charity’s results. It should be able to tell you about the quality and depth of its results as well as its capacity to continue to get these results, not just the number of activities or people served.
  • Be transparent. If you say you will donate a portion of your sales to charity, then include the specifics — how much you will donate and to which charity — prominently on your product’s packaging material and in all your communications about the effort.
  • Communicate your charitable efforts. Make sure the public and your employees are aware of all the good that your firm does.
  • Use surveys of your employees and your customers to identify their charitable interests and to give them a voice in the decision making. Such constituency voice efforts can increase the morale of employees and the engagement of customers, as well as help you to make the world a better place.

The season and its motivating factors

Charitable giving by corporations mirrors that of individuals, generally supporting causes that help children and the less fortunate, Berger says. Many companies also support the military, their families and veterans. Companies often align their giving with organizations that have a similar focus, such as food companies donating to food banks.

ConAgra Foods has made fighting child hunger one of its primary charitable focuses, with an annual holiday program called Shine the Light on Hunger. At ConAgra’s Omaha, Neb., headquarters, in conjunction with the city’s holiday lights festival, the company builds an ice skating rink on its campus and opens it to the public, with all proceeds from the rink and food donations collected there going to a local food bank.

“The holidays are a great time to provide employees with an opportunity to give back to the causes that mean the most to them.  However, in order to make the biggest impact collectively as a company, it’s helpful to have a charitable focus on one or two core causes,” said ConAgra’s Kircher. (Read the full interview with Kircher.)

SmartBrief is hosting a contest among its employees to see which team can provide the most meals toward the goal of 5,550 total meals for the Capital Area Food Bank. Each food item will be assigned a value of $1 to match up dollar for dollar with cash donations. If you would like to contribute to SmartBrief’s year-end giving, contact us.