Corporate Philanthropy: The Good and The Bad

corporate philanthropy

Corporate philanthropy sets companies apart from the pack. In their quest to gain market share and consumer dollars, they use various marketing strategies, including generosity.

What is Corporate Philanthropy?

Corporate philanthropy is a subset of corporate social responsibility (CSR), which is branding with a conscious. A business can’t be just about the bottom line. It has to improve the lives of people and the world. Philanthropy is how the brand gives back. And companies use generosity to gain an edge over their competitors. Consumers will support an organization that is improving their communities or championing causes that matter to them.


Here is an example of a company’s philanthropy, winning the hearts of consumers across the country. After an oil spill, you’ve probably seen Dawn commercials with adorable ducklings saved from the muck. For over 40 years, rescuing thousands of animals has been directly associated with the company – not dish soap, but Dawn.

Dawn donates funding and bottles of dish soap for wildlife preservation and bird rescue. I would gather animal lovers, animal activists, and those that work with animals use Dawn as their preferred brand. What the company won’t advertise is that the product includes petroleum. Although there are cleaners without petroleum, users say they don’t have Dawn’s “magic.”

Socially Irresponsible?

More CSR and philanthropy may be all smoke and mirrors. Some foundations give millions or billions of dollars every year to combat AIDS and reduce the global food shortage. However, these funds have little to show for the donations. For example, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has been shown to invest heavily in Monsanto, a farm research company which has had various troubles in the past. Those in need of fresh food are concerned about genetically modified farming and pesticides.

Other companies may also be involved in posturing and hypocritical practices. A study conducted stated that the more a Chief Executive Officer spoke out about doing good in the community, the more likely the opposite was occurring. A blatant example of this was Enron. The company was accused of corporate fraud and made headlines for months. However, the company had been giving at unmatched levels in the years leading up to its collapse.


Also, it can make the non-profit’s motives questionable when the benefactor acts irresponsibly. Researchers found that when taking statements for laws and regulations, non-profits that received support supplied statements eerily similar to the companies that gave funding. For obvious reasons, comments should be unbiased, but they appeared to be tainted.

While donations from large corporations allow non-profits to expand and reach larger communities, it may backfire. Musicians boycotted the Royal Opera House in London after it partnered with British Petroleum because they did not support the oil company. This cast a shadow on the organization’s scheduled showings and its reputation.

Corporate philanthropy is not as cut and dry as consumers would hope. Non-profits aren’t either, based on the studies. I suggest you research and support the brands you trust.

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