January 24, 2008
by Carol Adelman
For more insight into the world of corporate charity, I turn to Dr. Carol Adelman who produces the Index of Global Philanthropy for the Hudson Institute here in Washington.
I asked her if companies give to enhance their names.
Well, I don’t for one minute think that the companies aren’t interested in their image, but I do think, though, that philanthropy is considered by all a good thing to do. I think that CEOs and company employees want to help people, and not only through the products they produce, but in ways that will really help these growing pandemics that we’ve seen, and I think a lot has to do with just the rise of AIDS and pandemics and tsunami disasters that has really brought out the caring in corporations and employees.
Let’s put some figures on this, could you compare for us the level of private giving here in the United States, say compare it to what the government does?
Well, yes, surprisingly, people don’t realize that the United States gives three and a half times greater in its private philanthropy, including remittances that our migrants send back, than our government aid. So this is a very startling fact, and I think that’s because Americans give overseas the same way they do domestically – more through their private institutions. Whereas Europeans are more likely to give through their governments internationally the same way they give domestically.
If we say that’s a good model to have, is there not though a danger, a flaw inherent in it, in that in times of recession or economic downturn, perhaps the first thing that a company is going to lose is it’s charity, is its giving?
Well, you know, it’s interesting if you look at the flows; the private philanthropy flows, and you look at private investment and government aid, you’ll actually see some of the private philanthropy and remittances are much more steady flows. They have less fluctuation than private investment that responds to global recessions and Asian investment crises and all of that. So remarkably, the philanthropy and remittances going back are fairly steady and growing every year.
Just a final thought, do you like the idea of creative capitalism, do you think it’s a good concept to come up with?
Well, I’m all for creative capitalism and we document these examples in our Index of Global Philanthropy, and there are wonderful ideas, such as cause related marketing. This is when companies like Starbucks and the Red campaign will donate a percent of their profit to charity. Also banks are now learning to set up bank accounts for poor people, so they can earn interest and get credit ratings. So corporations and foundations are doing phenomenal things, and I think that this is wonderful and it’s underway. And it’s a whole new age of donors, some have called it, dubbed it, venture philanthropy or philantro-capitalism, so it’s an exciting vista we have in front of us.
Carol Adelman speaking to me just a little bit earlier….
Carol Adelman is a Senior Fellow at Hudson Institute and director of Hudson's Center for Global Prosperity. She served as a career foreign service officer for ten years and as an assistant administrator from 1988-1993 at the Agency for International Development (USAID).
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