The Business of Giving
Exploring philanthropy, non-profits and socially motivated business, from the Gates Foundation to your donation. A fresh look at the economy of good intentions.
February 24, 2009 7:40 AM
Posted by Kristi Heim
Losses, layoffs and budget cuts make headlines, but Northwest businesses "are still giving back to their communities in meaningful, even life-changing ways," says Carol Lewis, CEO of Philanthropy Northwest. Lewis has a background in business (Coinstar) non-profits (Pacific Northwest Ballet) and government (Seattle's deputy mayor).
Carol Lewis of Philanthropy Northwest
Despite the downturn, Microsoft employees gave away a record-breaking $87.7 million to charitable organizations in 2008 through the giving campaign, company matching gift program and volunteering, exceeding the previous year by $3.6 million, she noted. Almost 60 percent of employees donate, and the company matches their gifts up to $12,000.
Corporate grants (a separate category from employee giving) total more than $100 million dollars a year in the Northwest, Lewis said. The top donors include Microsoft, Boeing, Starbucks, Wells Fargo, Bank of America, Safeco Insurance Foundation, Weyerhaeuser and Regence. (Comparing figures, it's interesting to see that Microsoft employees donate more money than many large corporations.)
But even companies you might expect to back away from philanthropy are still giving, Lewis said. For example, J.P. Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon pledged that the bank will continue Washington Mutual's long-standing commitment to give more than $2.5 million dollars to local nonprofits each year. (Laid off WaMu employees might be the ones needing some of those dollars. And Dimon himself was paid a salary of $41 million in 2006 and $30 million in 2007).
On April 16, Philanthropy Northwest will hold its annual Corporate Philanthropy Institute, where local companies will share their strategies for hard times.
ALAN BERNER/SEATTLE TIMES
"We should thank them and ask them to keep up the good work," Lewis said. "We need their help now more than ever."
Later today I'll talk with Michael Kinsley about "Creative Capitalism" and whether that's different from corporate philanthropy or better than job-creating, profit-maximizing capitalism. The concept unleashed by Bill Gates has spawned books, blogs and much long-winded debate.
Are companies willing to go beyond public relations triumphs to use their business for the greater good, or has the question itself become a luxury at a time when many are focused on survival?