Grant seekers should always monitor trends and patterns in grant making. Several social and economic trends have emerged during the 2010s. Their convergence is serving to flatten the growth curve of present and planned corporate philanthropy.
This post explores several continuing and new social and economic trends impacting corporate charitable giving. An earlier post described how corporations give to support charitable purposes.
The global economy and its stock markets continue to perform well below expectations. Economic growth is weak in most major economies. By most measures that matter, China, Japan, the United States, and the 17-nation European Economic Union all report struggling or sputtering growth rates.
Corporate donation priorities are shifting from cash to products. Consequently, the rate of growth in product donations is outpacing that of cash donations, such as grants. Many products do have real value, but recipients cannot meet payrolls with them.
Nearly 90% of companies seek business benefits from their philanthropic pursuits. Product donations act as marketing tools to create brand awareness and encourage brand loyalty. They also act as catalysts for product demand and enlarging market share. When recipients become familiar enough with them, they often look for and buy more of them.
Targeted giving is becoming a new corporate norm, just as ‘targeted funding’ has long been a mantra in Federal discretionary grant programs. More businesses seek to protect their bottom lines by tackling a one or more of a host of critical social and environmental issues. As a result, specific corporations may target physical activity and wellness, multimodal transportation, or secure freshwater resources.
Social causes are also hot. Causes like affordable housing or workforce skills development draw corporate interest; giving to them can help businesses to access new markets. Such donations can help also to build an image of proactive corporate citizenship. Some more avant-garde corporations are using more intensively focused to spark faster or broader social change. However, in the same way as giving away products, being taking the lead in social causes is intended to build business reputation or build a brand, and thus bolster profit.
Among the foreseeable consequences of these trends are that a potential applicant or client may need to look elsewhere than corporate philanthropy if:
- its cause or issue isn’t in the current corporate spotlight, or
- it needs an infusion of cash rather than one of products or of short-term donated labor and/or expertise
As grant seekers, we can only wish corporations all the profits they can create. After all, we stand to profit when they do – or not long after!