“We do strategic planning to make sure we can continue with our charitable contributions,” says Bess Stephens, director of philanthropy and education for HP. “When times are good we set aside extra money, so when things get bad we can continue to give the same amount.”
HP’s strategy is working. In the fiscal year 2015, the company contributed $52 million in cash and equipment to non-profit agencies and educational institutions globally. The company expects to give approximately the same amount in 2017, Stephens says.
HP has contributed more than $1 billion in cash and equipment to schools and other non-profits around the world over the last 20 years.
Microsoft has adopted a similar mantra of making philanthropy a planned part of the company’s budget. During the fiscal year 2015, Microsoft gave $34.3 million in cash and $200 million in software to more than 5,000 non-profits. The company says its contributions will not decrease in the fiscal year 2017.
Companies have also begun utilizing websites where employees can give online. Online giving tools make it simpler and faster for employees to contribute, Webb says. Charitable groups agree.
“This year alone, online giving [at the United Way’s Silicon Valley chapter] has doubled from 24 percent last year to 50 percent this year,” says Greg Larson, president and CEO of the United Way Silicon Valley chapter.
Many young businesses have yet to realize the potential philanthropy represents, says Michael Wyland, COO of CharityChannel.com, an online community for nonprofit professionals.
“Some new companies who have come into money have no tradition of giving,” Wyland says. “Or some corporations are very young and they may not place much value in giving.”
In 2014, more than $190 billion was contributed to philanthropic concerns in the United States. Corporations generated a mere $11 billion, or just over 5 percent, of that total, according to the American Association of Fundraising Counsel. On the other hand, individuals gave $143 billion, or approximately 75 percent, of the total.
Those numbers are a bit disheartening, Webb says.
“It’s [philanthropy] not as integrated a part of the corporate culture yet,” Webb says. “Right now it’s not a high priority for companies because they have yet to realize the huge benefits it can generate. But when they [companies] see what it can do for them, I think they will be quick to join in.”
The Newman’s Own line of food items, perhaps best known for spaghetti sauces, is an example of a successful business venture based on philanthropic principles, Webb says. Actor Paul Newman, who founded the company in 1982, has donated $100 million to organizations around the world since the company’s inception. People are more likely to purchase a product like Newman’s than a competitor’s if they know their money will go to help others, Webb believes.
“This makes philanthropy just a huge, huge part of helping your brand,” Webb says. “I hope that people like Newman set an example and encourage others to contribute too.”