When Profitability Meets Philanthropy: Leading Brands Who Do Good

You’ve heard us say time and time again, it’s possible to be profitable and philanthropic. But, you don’t just have to take our word for it (don’t worry, we didn’t think you would). Now more than ever it is critical for companies to step up and support charitable causes. Not only is it good (duh), but consumers and employees are demanding it. In case you need more convincing, the experts at CONE communication have the stats:

  • 63% of Americans are hopeful businesses will take the lead to drive social and environmental change moving forward, in the absence of government regulation
  • 78% want companies to address important social justice issues
  • 87% will purchase a product because a company advocated for an issue they cared about
  • 76% will refuse to purchase a company’s products or services upon learning it supported an issue contrary to their belief

We also rounded out this post with some of our company crushes who have dedicated a significant amount of their power (and pockets) to making the world a better place.

Gilead Sciences

Gilead’s giving jumped by nearly two-thirds in 2015, due to rising revenues as the biotech firm expanded into the Hepatitis C market. Most of the company’s grants are reactive, based on specific funding requests from nonprofit groups. Most giving falls within its work on HIV/AIDS and liver disease. For example, last year Gilead granted $2-million to help the nonprofit Liver Foundation build a health facility in Kolkata, India.


Last year, the retail giant pledged $100 million to advance economic mobility for retail workers. That commitment includes a $10.9 million grant to nonprofit workforce organizations. This money will help implement career services specific to retail. In addition, Walmart (WMT, +0.29%) helps the anti-hunger charity, Feeding America, distribute fresh produce to people in need by donating food, providing refrigerated trucks, and pairing its logistics experts with the organization.

Bank of America

Like many financial firms, Bank of America (BAC, +0.38%) sharpened its focus on basic needs and economic mobility following the 2008 recession. Last year, it spent just shy of $50 million on workforce education, $33 million on community development, and $33 million on hunger and other urgent needs. During the winter holiday season, Bank of America runs a marketing campaign to raise money and awareness for the anti-hunger group Feeding America. For every dollar that customers give online to the group via Bank of America portals, the company contributes $2. Employees get two hours off per week to volunteer.

Alphabet (Google)

Thanks to Sheryl Sandberg who helped establish Google’s philanthropic arm, Google.org, Google is a clear leader in corporate philanthropy. With recent grants of $2.4 million to GiveDirectly, a nonprofit that provides direct cash aid to the poor; $750,000 (plus engineering assistance) to help Perkins School for the Blind develop a “micronavigation app” based on crowdsourced data; and $1-million to the Equal Justice Initiative, a group led by lawyer Bryan Stevenson that advocates for criminal-justice reform. Aside from grants, Google.org believes in the power of volunteering and encouraging employees to do so. Last fall, employees helped install wifi along refugee routes in Europe.


Microsoft (MSFT, -0.18%) is aligning its giving around its business assets. Last year, the Redmond, Wash.-based company appointed Mary Snapp, who previously served as Microsoft’s deputy general counsel, to help strengthen its relationships with nonprofits and find new ways to use employees’ tech skills for social benefit. For example, the company has invited charity leaders to pitch ideas for hackathons where Microsoft engineers can solve data and tech problems for social good. Longstanding Microsoft programs match employee volunteer time with $25 in cash per hour, and enable engineers to teach computer science in high schools.


Like its business operations, Target’s philanthropy is getting a facelift. As the retailer trims the number of product offerings to customers, Target is also focusing its giving on one area where the business is also doubling down: wellness. As one of its first projects, Target (TGT, +0.05%) partnered with the U.S. Fund for UNICEF to develop an education-oriented activity bracelet that will both raise money for the charity and be distributed for free in schools. The transformation comes after Target completed a five-year commitment in 2015 to provide $1 billion in cash and products for U.S. education.

General Mills

The Minneapolis-based food company looks for aid opportunities where its strengths intersect with community needs. It supports Partners in Food Solutions, a nonprofit that seeks to help small processors in Africa produce high-quality, safe food. Approximately 180 company employees volunteered with the group in 2015. Additionally, General Mills’ (GIS, -0.21%) largest cash grants that year included $4.4 million to the Greater Twin Cities United Way, to match employee giving; $1.2 million to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Foundation, to support youth nutrition; and $1.2 million to the humanitarian group CARE USA. That’s a lotta dough (and we aren’t talking about the white fluffy kind).


The retail site Zappos has long donated a percentage of its products, which include clothes and shoes, to nonprofits. That’s not all. The company allows employees to take paid time off to volunteer and has hosted numerous charitable events, such as Operation Glass Slipper, which provides prom clothes for girls who cannot afford them.  


SurveyMonkey Contribute rewards users for taking surveys by making a charitable donation to a participating charity of the user’s choice at no charge. So far, SurveyMonkey Contribute has raised more than $5 million in donations for a variety of charities, including Doctors Without Borders, American Red Cross and The Humane Society of the United States. At DoTopia, we can’t help but appreciate the choice SurveyMonkey is giving their customers. Personalization is our game, glad to see it is working for this high powered brand as well.

Hopefully all this goodness inspired you to think about your workplace giving and cause marketing programs. We encourage you to design beyond your company goals and look into the eyes of your employees and customers – what inspires them? Give them a say in your giving. If you need additional resources, start with our Guide to Giving to learn how your organization can inspire brand affinity through giving with your most valuable assets, employees and customers.  


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