The Magazine of Corporate Responsibility

Community Involvement Programs: Continuing Despite the Economy

VolunteerDespite the economic crisis, businesses have maintained community involvement efforts as part of their corporate citizenship programs, according to the results of a new survey of more than 300 North American companies.

The report - "Staying the Course -- The 2009 Community Involvement Index"  - is based on a survey conducted every two years by the Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship, which said that "community involvement is the cornerstone of most companies' commitment to corporate citizenship and the findings of this survey offer encouraging evidence that the foundation remains sound."

Among the findings:

  • In the face of economic pressures of historic proportions, most companies held their ground in support of community involvement programs. While a significant percentage of companies cut their community involvement budgets, 62.1 percent maintained or increased budget levels. And though 37.8 percent of respondents' companies cut their community involvement budget, only 20.9 percent decreased staffing.
  • What was once a very local concern of business now encompasses issues of global proportions. As community involvement becomes more complex, the survey data reveal that strategic intent has emerged as a well-established guiding principle for most programs. "The findings also show that businesses continue to struggle with the challenge of demonstrating measurable social impact from their initiatives in the communities where they operate" according to the survey report.
  • On the philanthropic front, the most common rate of donation reported by respondents is less than 0.5 percent of pre-tax profits, cited by 34.3 percent of those surveyed, with a little more than 1 in 4 companies, 27.8 percent, donating more than 1 percent of pre-tax profits.

Employee volunteering is also at the core of community involvement programs for companies though participation levels in those programs are not as extensive as might be expected. Just 30.3 percent of survey respondents reported that their companies have more than 30 percent employee participation and 45.3 have 15 percent or less participating in volunteering programs.

"The findings of this survey offer a snapshot of the community involvement field," said Chris Pinney, director of research and policy at the Boston College Center. "It gives a glimpse of how companies are approaching this evolving function in today's challenging business environment."

A copy of the survey's key findings can be downloaded here.

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