Why is corporate philanthropy being left out?

Lucy de Las Casas

I find it striking how rarely corporate philanthropy is talked about within the wider funding community. In discussions about funders working together – whether this is collaboration, co-funding or knowledge-sharing – companies are hardly mentioned. Corporate philanthropy representatives are few and far between at funding events, and many are unaware of the available funding literature and resources.

In some ways this is not surprising. In my experience most people’s first response to working together is to find someone who ‘looks like me and thinks like me’. But in other areas traditional divides between groups of funders are being crossed: government is engaging with trusts and foundations; trusts and foundations are considering how they can work with philanthropists (see NPC’s report on this).

So why is corporate philanthropy being left out?

I suspect it’s because it is multi-faceted, going beyond giving financially to include giving time through employee volunteering and other in-kind giving. It often has multiple objectives – not only delivering charitable benefit, but also engaging employees, ensuring the business is seen as a good corporate citizen, even marketing and branding. My hunch is that this means other funders are suspicious of corporate philanthropy, unclear of its motives and not sure what to make of it.

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