One change may be in direct corporate giving to the United Way. Astudy of 226 corporations by researcher Jerry Marx showed that "thehigher the level of strategic philanthropy, the lower the percentagecontribution to United Way." The study concluded that the United Wayshould develop "a new development model" that more carefully considersbusiness needs.

The 1997 study was published in Nonprofit Management & Leadershipmagazine and financed by the Lilly Foundation, the Center for CorporateCommunity Relations at Boston College and the Indiana University Centeron Philanthropy.

Executives at United Way of America headquarters in Alexandria, Va.,did not respond to several requests for comment.

Other research indicates that cause-related marketing, a practiceclosely linked with strategic philanthropy, helps contribute to thebottom line.

About 90 percent of employees who work for companies involved with acause feel proud of their company's values, compared to 56 percentwithout such programs, according to a five-year study conducted byRoper-Starch Worldwide, a marketing and public opinion research firmbased in Harrison, N.Y. Among consumers, two-thirds said that if priceand quality were equal, they would switch to a brand or retailerassociated with a good cause.

Young people seem to be particularly drawn to these cause-orientedcompanies. "The teen numbers are astounding," said Carol Cone, chiefexecutive officer of Cone Communications, a Boston public relations andmarketing firm that paid for the study and is an industry leader in thephilanthropic area. "If you're a company needing to appeal to the nextgeneration of consumers, this is critical."

One of Cone's success stories has been the Reebok Human RightsAward, which spawned from Reebok-sponsored rock concerts. Through theaward, said Cone, Reebok has escaped the wrath Nike has suffered in thedebate over working conditions in overseas shoe factories.

When the Chicago-based Bally Total Fitness decided to renovate 350fitness centers around the country, it had to decide what to do withnearly $10 million worth of used exercise equipment. Instead of sellingit, Bally gave the equipment to inner-city schools, youth-at-riskprograms, police and fire athletic leagues and others under a "StrongerCommunities" program.

"The very first thing this does is make our employees very, veryproud," said Dave Southern, vice president of public and investorrelations for Bally. "It's also a great source of pride for our membersand probably strengthens their sense of affinity to our company. And itgives us good community relations...and that helps gain new members."

Join the Discussion
comments powered by Disqus