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What does employer-supported philanthropy look like in Philadelphia?
That is the question the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia and Philanthropy Network Greater Philadelphia set out to answer when the organizations’ presidents — Rob Wonderling and Sidney Hargro, respectively — started talking about producing a report late last year.
The findings in How Employers Give: A Look at Philanthropy and Volunteerism in Philadelphia are based on the results of a survey completed early this year by members of the Chamber’s board, some of which are also members of Philanthropy Network. Hargro said the survey took three weeks to complete and estimates that about 30% of the Chamber’s board participated.
Wonderling, in the report, states that he sees this as “the beginning of a discussion on the extraordinary impact that employers in and around Philadelphia make every day.”
For his part, Hargro describes the city’s corporate giving in this way: “Small businesses, major corporations, and those in between are giving — and they are giving more than monetary support. From creating employee volunteerism programs to providing pro bono support, employers are using a variety of ways to maximize their impact.”
He told Generocity that he believes the report is best viewed as a starting point for continued conversations about the extent and kinds of philanthropic activities in the city.
“We hope [the report] will be used to create interest in understanding how corporate philanthropy works,” Hargro said. “It is our hope that this is the first of many reports, the one that we will learn from. The first time is always an opportunity to learn.” He added that in subsequent reports he would expect more extensive participation in the survey, and a higher response rate from which to gather the data.
Some of the findings include:
- 95% of the respondents had made monetary donations in the past year.
- 86% of the respondents enabled employee volunteer opportunities in the past year.
- 90% of the giving by employers headquartered in Philly benefitted local nonprofits.
- 66% of the employers in Philly said their motivation for philanthropy was addressing issues impacting communities in which they operate.
The top issue areas the companies supported through their contributions were economic and community development (64%), education (62%), and human services (40%), followed closely by health (36%) and arts and culture (31%).
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For Hargro the most important piece of data in the report was the high percentage of corporate giving that came from [businesses] that are headquartered in the city. He said it will prompt him to take a closer look at the patterns of philanthropic giving from companies headquartered outside the region.
But he also thinks the data about corporate volunteerism is significant and part of a greater trend. “I expect to see volunteerism increasing,” Hargro said. “It is going become more structured. And as corporations devote time and [staff] to manage volunteerism, they will have a better feel for how to do it, and it will continue to grow.”
One of the most difficult tasks the report takes upon itself is measuring the impact of all this. “Tracking data and assessing impact is tough and time-consuming, and finding a method that works for a company is difficult,” the report states. “Nearly a quarter of companies do not employ any method of impact measurement, and numerous respondents were unable to share granular-level details about their activities. However, others shared that formalizing their tracking processes was a turning point in their philanthropy, and some even noted that doing so led to an increase in their giving from that point forward.”
Regardless of the challenges, the report offers some interesting data about impact on the companies themselves. For example, it found that 85% of the respondents felt that the greatest benefit derived from philanthropic activity was better relations with the communities in which the companies operate. Improved brand reputation was another (80%), with improved employee engagement (68%) rounding out the top three.
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