Helping Corporations Give Every Day for 75 Years
Last week included Giving Tuesday, a day when individuals, foundations and corporations are encouraged to support their favorite causes during the holiday season. Designating the Tuesday after Thanksgiving as a day of giving has been a hugely successful way of focusing attention on the wide variety of charitable institutions in the country, and it’s also been a great way of promoting the idea of giving on-line.
The idea of giving is, of course, as old as civilization, but giving by businesses has a much shorter history. Some companies that were established in the 19th century began making modest contributions to the community shortly after they were founded (e.g., American Express made its first contribution in 1875 to aid victims of a fire in Boston), but most corporate philanthropic programs have come into existence within the last century.
This year, The Conference Board, a global membership think tank that helps business leaders navigate challenges that face them across industries and geographies, is celebrating 75 years of providing support for corporations with their philanthropy and employee engagement activities.
The Conference Board’s work in this area began in 1943 when it began tracking corporate contributions during World War II when businesses were giving to charities helping those disrupted by the effects of the war both at home and abroad. At that time, it started documenting and analyzing trends and best practices in corporate contributions, which generated a bi-annual, and then annual, report on the subject. This benchmarking report, Giving in Numbers, continues today, and it is widely considered the best public reporting of corporate contributions in the United States.
It has since expanded its work to include other aspects of what is now referred to as corporate social responsibility: sustainability, impact measurement, employee volunteering and strategic community engagement.
In 1950, The Conference Board formed its first council, a group of executives who had oversight for corporate contributions for their companies. It was initially called the Contributions Council (now Corporate Social Responsibility Council) and it has been a forum for corporate philanthropy professionals to get together to share ideas and learn from one another.
Most recently, The Conference Board established a Corporate Citizenship & Philanthropy Institute. The Institute includes three councils where senior executives come together to collaboratively explore solutions to key issues in the field, and to gain access to exclusive research on topics pertinent to corporate philanthropy and employee engagement. The Institute also produces an annual corporate philanthropic practice conference and the Giving Thoughts research series, which are valuable tools for both emerging and established corporate social responsibility and philanthropy professionals.
I myself have benefited immensely from both the benchmarking research and the peer-to-peer networking provided by The Conference Board.
“Over the last seven decades, The Conference Board has helped shift the U.S. business community from a once-small participant in the giving space to a leading benefactor of impact-based philanthropy,” said Jeff Hoffman, founding leader of The Conference Board’s Corporate Citizenship & Philanthropy Institute. “Through the support and dedication of our staff, council members, member companies, and other stakeholders, The Conference Board will remain at the forefront in providing insights, data, and tools to companies as their corporate citizenship programs continue evolving.”
Whether gathering information about what companies are doing to support their communities or helping corporate executives navigate reputational issues with trusted insights, The Conference Board remains a valuable and strategic partner for companies who are engaged in making the world a better place. With the success of Giving Tuesday growing every year, it seems entirely appropriate to celebrate a group that helps giving continue year-round.
Portions of this blog post first appeared on Forbes.com
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CSR Now! Is a weekly blog by Timothy J. McClimon, president of the American Express Foundation, designed to get at what's happening in corporate social responsibility today -- from the point of view of a corporate practitioner.