Boston College survey finds businesses staying the course on community involvement

Volunteering, philanthropy and other corporate programs withstand economic crisis
Jan 12, 2010 10:35 AM ET
Press Release

(3BLMedia/theCSRfeed) Chestnut Hill, Mass. (January 12, 2010) – A Boston College survey of more than 300 North American companies in a variety of industries reveals that despite the economic crisis, businesses have forged ahead with community involvement efforts as part of a continued commitment to corporate citizenship.

Released today, “Staying the Course -- The 2009 Community Involvement Index” is a biennial survey conducted by the Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship that asks about companies’ community involvement programs, practices and management. 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.
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.
The data collected through the many years of conducting the Community Involvement Index survey show companies have made significant progress – from internal investments in staff, strategy and communications to external investments in the needs of communities around the globe. 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.
“The findings of this survey offer a snapshot of the community involvement field,” explained 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.”
Among the issues of concern to companies, education is once again ranked as most critical, followed by environmental issues, economic development, health care and job training. This survey also reflects the increased concern of business, as well as the general public, with environmental issues. In the 2005 Community Involvement Index environmental issues ranked only seventh among issues of concern to companies.
Direct philanthropy remains a big part of community involvement. The range of average annual donations by corporations reported by respondents goes from less than $500,000 per year (27.8 percent of companies) to more than $25 million per year (14.2 percent) of companies. The largest group (32.5 percent) donated between $1 million and $10 million per year on average. Looking at the percentage of pretax profits donated per year provides a clearer picture of the generosity of corporations. 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 complete 2009 Community Involvement Index report is available only to members on the Center’s web site. Nonmembers may go to the web site to download a PDF of the survey’s Key Findings.
The Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship is a membership-based research organization associated with the Carroll School of Management. It is committed to helping business leverage its social, economic and human assets to ensure both its success and a more just and sustainable world. As a leading resource on corporate citizenship, the Center works with global corporations to help them define, plan and operationalize their corporate citizenship. Through the power of research, management and leadership programs, and the insights of its 350 corporate members, the Center creates knowledge, value and demand for corporate citizenship.
For more information contact:
Tim Wilson, Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship
Email: Phone: 617-552-1173