Americans are known for their philanthropic spirit, and corporations are no exception. Hospitals, libraries, colleges - our nation itself - have benefited from selfless donations in the spirit of our collective quest to help others.
Having just celebrated National Philanthropy Day on November 9, we have much to be grateful for. With overall giving rising substantially from $303 billion in 2009 to $358 billion in 2014, charitable giving is clearly rebounding from pre-recession levels.
Corporate giving has also grown substantially from $1 billion in 1975 to some $5 billion a decade later, and then reaching a record $17.8 billion in 2014, according to "Giving USA 2015: The Annual Report on Philanthropy for the Year 2014."
Locally, 83 percent of nonprofits surveyed received some sort of corporate donation over the past year, and 29 percent report that corporate fundraising has become easier, according to a recent survey by the National University System Institute for Policy Research and the Sanford Institute of Philanthropy at National University.
Nonetheless, when looking at corporate giving in terms of profit and gross domestic product (GDP), there is room for growth. Corporate giving represents just 0.7 percent of profits, and overall has grown from 2 percent to 2.1 percent of GDP, according to the "Giving USA 2015" report.
As professional fundraisers, we see daily the value of corporate giving, and a growing body of research and studies point to a substantial value in giving back. In fact, according to Raj Sisodia, co-author of "Firms of Endearment: How World Class Companies Profit from Passion and Purpose," purpose-driven companies have outperformed the market by five times during the past 10 years.
Other evidence supports the value of corporate giving:
Creating passionate consumers: According to a 2013 study by public relations consulting firm Cone Communications, 54 percent of Americans had made purchases in the preceding 12 months because of a company's support for social causes. The study found that nearly 9 in 10 Americans are likely to switch from one brand to another that is associated with a social cause they favor, given comparable price and quality.
Stimulating innovation: A 2011 Harvard University study found that contributions can stimulate innovation as grants to universities and other organizations provide companies with invaluable access to new ideas, technical expertise, and opportunities to collaborate on research and development projects.
Growing your market: Supporting a community leads to greater local economic success and buying power. This is especially true when companies target their philanthropy to building stronger schools or bolstering computer literacy.
Improving employee satisfaction: Study after study show that corporate giving and corporate-sponsored volunteer experiences, result in higher job satisfaction ratings and a greater commitment from employees. Millennials are largely driven by values, meaning that young, talented professionals are more likely to seek employment at a company committed to bettering the community.
Building positive brand awareness: For businesses that are trying to differentiate themselves from competitors at home and abroad, now is a good time for them to re-evaluate their giving priorities and find opportunities to not only share their stories, but to demonstrate their values and missions through the choices they make in philanthropic giving. Giving strengthens ties between corporations and their communities - and that benefits everyone involved.
Danielle Dawson is senior director of development in the Office of Gift Planning at the University of California, San Diego and president of the Association of Fundraising Professional' San Diego Chapter.