One of the emerging trends in the advertising industry is the increasingly more apparent utilization of charitable giving as a means of self-promotion. However, upon closer inspection, it becomes clear that these reports of a company’s philanthropic involvement are often greatly exaggerated. Although it is common for corporations to tout their foundation donations in exact dollars in an effort to showcase their charitable efforts, a scrutinized look at the entire financial report demonstrates how very little the companies are actually giving.
Taken together as a whole, companies in the United States only donated one dime per ever $100 in sales. However, corporation public relations officials still seize the opportunity to promote any degree of charitable giving. In February, Anheuser-Busch InBev used their highly coveted one-minute advertising spot during the Super Bowl to showcase the company’s initiative to send drinking water bottled in cans to areas hit hard by natural disasters. It should be noted that the cost of this ad was in the ballpark of $10 million. Many organizations use their corporate lobbies as a means to showcase their giving with elaborate displays boasting of their donations and the effects it has on others.
For years, economists and business leaders have debated whether it is even the responsibility of corporations to use their resources to engage in philanthropic efforts. Although many companies funnel their charitable giving budget toward impactful humanitarian efforts, other choose to seek opportunities that showcase their name in a more obvious manner. An example of this would be the trend to look for naming rights of a stadium or other venue, using charitable dollars as a means to increase the bottom line rather than as a way of giving back to society.
In light of the extensive promotion many of these corporations undertake to advocate for their philanthropy, it is fair for its customers to question where the money is being directed. At times, corporations will spend more promoting their charitable giving to the public than they actually invested into the donation. Public relations executive would like all consumers to believe that the corporate philanthropy is solely the result of a company’s social conscience. As a consumer, it is advised to look beyond the surface of these charitable contribution claims and examine the heart of the giver.