Like the economy, a dip in corporate giving appears to have bottomed out, but that charitable landscape has changed both for givers and receivers.
Corporations are re-evaluating which not-for-profit organizations they support, and in some cases businesses are providing more volunteers and less cash. At the same time, fund-raising efforts are changing. Some elaborate parties designed to attract big donors are a little less gala. Instead of the usual full-blown dinner, some groups are opting for less expensive cocktail parties.
Nationally, corporate giving rose 10.6 percent (8.8 percent adjusted for inflation) in 2010, according to the Giving USA Foundation. In Arizona, Laine Seaton of the Greater Arizona Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals says corporate giving is improving, with some caveats.
“It’s starting to get a little better – slowly,” she says. “Two years ago was definitely worse than it is now. I’m seeing that more companies are looking at alternate ways to support nonprofits. Definitely, volunteerism is up. Corporations and nonprofits have to be more flexible. Those chicken dinners are hard to fill.”
At the St. Mary’s Food Bank Alliance, demand for food has nearly doubled in the past three years to a record 74 million pounds, which equates to 285,000 meals a day going to 700 agency-partners in 10 Arizona counties. St. Mary’s depends on a three-pronged operation to serve the increased number of needy and unemployed: financial donations, volunteers to help run the massive distribution center at 31st Avenue and Thomas Road, and food donations.
Terry Shannon, president and CEO of the food bank, says everyone is tightening their belt during these tough economic times. “But, fortunately, the economy has caused many corporations to refocus some of their support,” he says. “Maybe the total they can give is down, potentially donating to fewer nonprofits and focusing on basic needs. Obviously, we supply a very basic need. Our corporate financial support is strong.”
Volunteering is strong as well, saving the food bank $5 million a year in labor costs. “Corporations in Arizona are encouraging employees to volunteer more and more,” Shannon says. “At our main distribution center, we can handle 150 to 200 volunteers at a time. We get many corporate groups from companies like American Express, Wells Fargo, Bank of America and Target. It keeps their employees together – sorting, bagging and boxing food for distribution – and it almost functions as a team-building effort, rather than everyone doing their own thing.”
Food donations from manufacturers and retailers represent the third leg of the food bank’s operations. Some 55 trucks are dispatched to 280 grocery stores daily to pick up what Shannon calls “non-salable but edible” food items, such as a dented can of soup or a package of buns with one that is crushed.
“We’re a food distribution business,” Shannon says, “but we do it with donated and rescued food. Imagine what would happen if we had the food, but no money to put fuel in those 55 trucks (we use to distribute) or if we didn’t have the volunteers.”
In addition to having its employees volunteer at St. Mary’s Food Bank, Wells Fargo announced it is contributing $38,000 to 20 non-profits in recognition of volunteer efforts throughout the community. Twenty Wells Fargo Arizona team members were named Volunteer Service Award winners. Two will have $10,000 given to the charity of their choice and 18 will have $1,000 given to their selected charities.
In 2010, Wells Fargo team members reported nearly 80,000 volunteer hours in Arizona. They served as mentors, board members, project leaders, fund raisers, educators and more. Wells Fargo also donated $5 million in 2010 to nonprofits and schools in Arizona.
Despite the struggles of some corporations and non-profits, Phoenix Suns Charities is cashing in on its community-based reputation. In the past year, the organization distributed a record $1.36 million to 178 charitable organizations. That tops last year’s record of more $1.2 million awarded to 156 recipients, and marks the two best years since Phoenix Suns Charities was formed 23 years ago.
Kathryn Pidgeon, executive director of the NBA team’s charitable arm, has an explanation for the impressive results. “We are connected at the hip to a stellar organization – the Phoenix Suns,” she says. “The community loves the Suns. There is a strong history of giving to the community. Our donors really believe in us, trust us. They know the money is going for the kids.”
The $11.6 million in donations the Phoenix Suns Charities has distributed since 1988 is separate from the free tickets, signed memorabilia and personal appearances by team members, dancers and the mascot, the Gorilla. “My number is all cash,” Pidgeon says.
Grants from Suns Charities start at $1,000. The largest donation of $100,000 went to Improving Chandler Area Neighborhoods to build a basketball court in its new facility in downtown Chandler.
Phoenix Sun Charities is one that still relies on a gala to raise money. “We’ve given people a fabulous party,” Pidgeon says. “It’s wildly successful with great entertainment. All the players are there and they’re accessible.”
Pidgeon says the gala, which is partly underwritten by corporate sponsors, netted $1.1 million last March.
There are numerous other ways Phoenix Suns Charities generates money for its donations. The newest venture is an official state of Arizona Phoenix Suns license plate that produced $39,000 the first year and $51,000 the second year.
A new development in fundraising, says Seaton of the Fundraising Professionals group, is the target audience. The most giving demographic has been women in the 55 to 65 age group. “Nonprofits these days are also looking at twenty-somethings,” she says. “They didn’t have money to give. That’s not the case anymore. Young people want to make a difference. They have energy and new ideas. Social media is part of that effort.”
Arizona Corporate Angels
National Kidney Foundation of Arizona
|4203 E. Indian School Rd., Suite 140
Phoenix, AZ 85018
Arizona’s Children Association
|2833 N. 3rd St., Phoenix, AZ 85004 | (602) 234-3733 | arizonaschildren.org
2700 S. 8th Ave., Tucson, AZ 85713 | (800) 944-7611 | hope3ways.org
United Cerebral Palsy of Central Arizona
|1802 W. Parkside Ln.
Phoenix, AZ 85027
Arizona School of Choice Trust
|P.O. Box 1616
Glendale, AZ 85311
Phoenix Rescue Mission
|1801 S. 35th Ave.
Phoenix, AZ 85009
For more information about these Arizona Corporate Angels and their respective corporate giving, view the AZ Business Magazine Nov/Dec 2011 digital issue.