Giving Thanks for Giving Companies

As the newspapers grow heavy with inserts and our inboxes fill up with email ads for shopping on Black Friday, it can seem that our country suffers from a massive case of rampant materialism. As I read recently, “Black Friday: Only in America, people trample others for sales exactly one day after being thankful for what they already have.”

We are a consumer society. No doubt about it. But we are also the most generous people in the world. In 2012, Americans gave $316.23 billion to charity, according to Charity Navigator, an increase of 3.5% over 2011.

Last Thanksgiving I wrote the column “Feeling Thankful for CEOs, Companies That Get it Right.” Following what I am now declaring a Thanksgiving tradition for my blog, I would like to give kudos to many of those generous businesses that spend millions to make their communities, and the world, a better place.

Every year the Chronicle of Philanthropy newspaper asks 300 of the top revenue-producing companies in the world about their charitable giving. For 2012, more than 100 companies responded.

One trend noted in corporate donations was the increase in product donation over cash, according to an article in Forbes.com, which reported that when cash and product donations are counted, the total from 2011 rose by 20.2% to $18.6 billion.

Here are a few of the more interesting initiatives and donations from corporations last year.

In an interesting twist to responding to the disaster in the Philippines caused by Typhoon Haiyan, Coca-Cola Philippines and its bottling partner, Coca-Cola FEMSA Philippines announced that they would suspend advertising there. That money budgeted for advertising the brand would instead be used to support relief efforts. Coca-Cola is donating more than $2.5 million in cash and in-kind contributions. My hometown soda company is generous, with donations through its Foundation and company of more than $690 million between 2002 and 2010.

Wells Fargo took the top position as the most charitable company in 2012 according the list in the Chronicle of Philanthropy, with cash donations of more than $315 million. The company leapt to the top with a $77 million donation to partner with NeighborWorks America to launch the NeighborhoodLIFT initiative to help educate and assist homebuyers in particularly hard-hit areas.

Target, which is number 9 on the list of top ten most charitable companies with donations of more than $223 million in cash and products, recently formed a partnership with Feeding America, the nation’s larges domestic hunger-relief charity. The company launched a collection of limited-time only FEED USA + Target products with 10% of sales from June through mid-October being donated to Feeding America. The goal is to provide more than 10 million meals to children and families.

Number five on the list, with more than $215 million in cash and product donations, is Exxon Mobil. One of the company’s initiatives is to fight malaria. Since 2000, the company has donated more than $110 million towards that effort. In 2012 alone, Exxon donated $12.4 million to 20 organizations for 24 different projects. Those projects benefitted 16.7 million people in 10 countries.

So while we may be a consumer society, I give thanks that we are also a generous one. And while I’m in the giving thanks mode, I will also give thanks that come Black Friday I’ll be far, far away from the nearest mall.

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