Corporate Charity Gets Sophisticated, Routine
By Jane Han
The season of giving has come around again. But with corporate giving now rooted as an annual order of business in itself for many firms here and overseas, it's no longer the matter of who does it or not, but how the act of goodwill is done.
Many businesses worldwide testify that the deadly Hurricane Katrina and Pakistan earthquake tried their charity programs, its speedy reaction and flexibility, while, at the same time, reviving the waning global corporate philanthropy efforts.
A recent survey of 136 large companies conducted by a New York-based nonprofit advocacy group, the Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy, showed that most firms raised their giving level by about 5 percent last year.
It said the median dollar value of donations, among companies with revenues ranging from $500 million to $375 billion, went up from $29.5 million in 2005 to $30.6 million last year.
The study added that more firms are giving to international causes and responding to employee preferences for charitable activities.
And local charity organizations say similar trends are witnessed here, too.
``Companies aren't just tossing their money into any charity at the end of the year, merely to fulfill their year-end responsibility,'' said spokesman Kim Hyo-jin of Community Chest of Korea (CCK), a non-governmental fundraising division of United Way with 16 local chapters nationwide.
He added that a growing number of major firms are establishing individual charity groups to carry out philanthropic activities year-round that specifically fit their needs.
Dubbed ``strategic philanthropy'' by American Express in 1983 to describe its underwriting of the Statue of Liberty restoration project, such cause is an example of the increasingly popular, cause-related marketing.
``Delivering briquettes and making gimchi are some of the most common forms of giving lately done by companies of all sizes,'' said Kim, adding that these volunteer works play up a warm and friendly corporate image.
Aside from these, Samsung Electronics helps the visually impaired, while Hyundai Motor supports those disabled from car accidents, said Kim, explaining that a company's specific business area is reflected in its charity.
While these organization-driven efforts are common, employee-level charity is also spreading, says Aimee Bak of Compassion Korea, a non-profit international humanitarian group that focuses on supporting impoverished children.
``Through the matching gift program, companies match the amount employees decide to donate monthly to needy children,'' she said, noting that SK, Pulmuone, Coca-Cola Korea and Hyundai Department Store are among those involved.
While critics often sum up corporate giving as self-interested goodwill, as many surveys prove that consumers tend to favor firms that actively partake in charitable deeds, philanthropic experts still welcome the settling donation culture here.
``Korea's top corporate giver Samsung donates around 20 billion won per year, which is about the same amount given by global pharmaceutical company Merck, ranked 10th for giving most in the U.S.,'' said Kim of CCK, highlighting that this is a significant jump from just a few years back.
Hyundai Motor, LG and SK jointly take second place for giving about 10 billon won annually and POSCO comes in third with 8 billon won, he added.
``Many turn their eyes to corporations when it comes to charity work, but it's really the individuals that are delaying our donation culture from maturing further,'' Kim said.