Charity Begins at Work

It's always nice to learn about good news in a bad economy.

SunTrust Bank Private Wealth Management just released a survey that looked at 202 high net worth business owners, whose companies have at least $10 million in annual revenue, to look at their charitable giving.

And probably the best news is that 70 percent of the CEOs said that even if the economic downturn moderately hurts their business, they plan to keep their current level of non-profit and charitable giving this year.

(Moderately is the key word, of course, leading one to believe that if a business is hurt dramatically, it's going to be every man, woman and child for themselves.)

Some other findings that may be interesting to people:
  • Everyone was asked why they give money or time, and the top reason given was because donations "helps make a positive change." Much farther down the list were entrepreneurs who said they give to receive tax credits, to bring positive attention to their business, to network, to establish a legacy or gain recognition.
(That said, I've got to respect the entrepreneurs who were honest enough to admit--even anonymously--that their top reason for giving money was to receive tax credits, create a legacy or some other materialistic reason. On the other hand, so what, as long as CEOs with deep pockets are giving to charity.)

  • More than half of those surveyed encourage employees to donate time and/or money.
  • One in three entrepreneurs say that they match donations made by employees.
  • Over one-third (36%) have woven philanthropy into their business plan; 53% have written non-profit organizations into their will; 44% have established a private or family foundation.
  • And predictably, given how many entrepreneurs are self-admitted control freaks, 60 percent of the CEOs believe that they have the skills to run a better nonprofit than the charities that they give to; and that nearly half (48%) said that they have regretted their donations to some organizations because they hadn't spent their money wisely, and 48% also said that they have withheld money from some organizations because they were afraid the money would not be put to good use.
Hmmm. I wonder how much money I could receive, if I mentioned to these 202 business owners that my wife sometimes says that I dress like a "charity case."

Geoff Williams is a business journalist and the author of C.C. Pyle's Amazing Foot Race: The True Story of the 1928 Coast-to-Coast Run Across America (Rodale).
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