Companies tend to couple donations with marketing.
Melitta USA gave out 2,000 cups of its signature coffee at a recent Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure. [Photo: Melitta USA]
These days, giving for giving’s sake is taking a back seat as companies, law firms and banks build marketing or branding into their gifts of both money and volunteer efforts. “The philanthropy dollars have turned into marketing dollars,” says Ruth Shack, president of the Dade Community Foundation and chairwoman of the Florida Philanthropic Network. “Corporations want a person on the board; they want a banner hung.”
Wendy Spencer, CEO of Volunteer Florida, cites examples of bank employees volunteering in a low-income community, teaching residents money management skills likely to make them future bank customers. Or, when company employees volunteer together, they wear their company apparel and brush up on team-building skills while they’re at it.
Part of the trend involves maximizing a company’s philanthropic reach by offering goods along with money. Melitta USA, for example, puts some of its charitable effort into presenting the annual Glitz and Sticks fund raiser that, in connection with the Tampa Bay Lightning Foundation, benefits the Tampa General Hospital Foundation. The Clearwater company also is a financial supporter of the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Florida Inspirata Gala in January. But much of Melitta’s charitable contributions come in the form of in-kind donations of its signature coffee. The company’s sampling van, for example, gave out 2,000 cups of coffee at a Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure this fall. “We’re not the biggest company, so we can’t just give financially,” says Donna Gray, public relations director for Melitta.