Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Business Needs Emerge in Corporate Giving

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Business Needs Emerge in Corporate Giving

Article excerpt

By Claudia H. Deutsch N.Y. Times News Service Executives in charge of corporate contributions used to worry exclusively about society, while their counterparts on the business side tended to profits. The philosophical paths never crossed.

Now, as both sides try to make do with slashed budgets, the separatism is ending.

"We won't make a grant that doesn't fit the business strategy," said Cornelia Higginson, the vice president in charge of overseas giving for the American Express Co.

Neither will Paul M. Ostergard, director of corporate contributions for Citibank.

"A professional contributions manager puts the company's interest first," he said. "It's a classic case of doing well by doing good."

The timing is no coincidence. As the 1960s hippies and the 1970s yuppies move into positions of power, social conscience and capitalistic pragmatism have replaced social climbing as a prime mover behind corporate giving.

"Old-line CEO's used donations to get on symphony boards; today's CEO's use the money as a strategic tool," said Craig Smith, publisher of Corporate Philanthropy Report, a Seattle newsletter.

The recession has caused most companies to cut their marketing and contributions budgets at a time when nonprofit groups are also strapped for cash.

While the trend may hurt small, esoteric nonprofit groups, the larger, savvier ones have used their new entree to marketing departments to get advertising and promotional advice. And they pander to self-interest _ pointing out that sponsoring an avant-garde arts show will position a company as innovative or that supporting child care programs will help it attract women as customers.

The overall result is that the Chinese wall between giving and selling has come down. Smith says that 55 percent of contributions managers have regular contact with marketing directors.

Nissan Motor Corp. in U.S.A. asks line managers to review philanthropic projects. Citibank, American Express and GTE Northwest offer discounts or free tickets to customers at the events to which they contribute. …

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