OTTAWA, April 2, 2013 /CNW/ - Canadian companies have maintained or even increased their community investment budgets despite the uncertain economic climate of the past five years, according to The Conference Board of Canada's first-ever national survey of corporate community investment activity.
"The community investment sector in Canada appears to be largely recession-proof," said Michael Bassett, Senior Research Associate. "Approximately 85 per cent of companies maintained or increased their community investment programs. Corporate values and tradition, as well as reputation management, appear to be the main drivers of community investment programs."
Thirty-nine per cent of the 180 respondents to the survey said their budget had increased compared to the previous year and 47 per cent said their budgets stayed the same. Only 14 per cent of respondents reported that their community investment budget had declined.
Over a five-year time frame, more than 50 per cent of respondents reported an upward trend in their community investment budgets. An additional 34 per cent reported that their community investments have remained constant in nominal dollars.
Community investment practitioners in Canada have long had to compare themselves against U.S. or global standards. The Canadian Corporate Community Investment Benchmarking Report provides an overall assessment of the state of community investment in Canada.
"Until now, most research Canadian community investment professionals have is based on U.S. data. The Conference Board of Canada has taken a leadership role by researching and creating a report that provides Canadian data. This will enable better comparisons on programs, identify industry specific trends and recommend options for improvement in Canada," said Barbara Turley-McIntyre, Director, Sustainability & Corporate Citizenship at The Co-operators Group, one of the organizations that supported the research project.
The survey findings suggest that previous estimates of corporate giving significantly under-report the scale of corporate community investment in Canada. The 180 companies who completed this survey contributed just over $710 million to communities in 2011.
While many organizations make community investments, a few companies account for most of the contributions in Canada. According to the survey, 13 per cent of the responding companies contributed more than $10 million each in 2011, representing 72 per cent of the overall total.
"At Volunteer Canada, we work with all types of organizations to engage today's volunteers, and the corporate sector represents an increasingly important group of partners for us," said Paula Speevak Sladowski, Volunteer Canada's interim President and Chief Operating Officer.
One factor that could explain the resilience of community investment budgets is the high level of interest of presidents and Chief Executive Officers. Among responding firms, 69 per cent reported that their president and CEO was either very involved or extremely involved in the community investment program.
Thirty-eight per cent of respondents reported that their company has a signature community investment program. Signature programs tend to focus on an issue or groups of issues where the company feels it can align itself, while also working to make progress on this specific issue. This media backgrounder describes signature programs among many of the respondents to the survey.
"Charities and not-for-profit organizations will be pleased to learn that Canadian companies are maintaining their corporate community investments even amid the economic uncertainty. The report suggests that matching gift programs represent untapped potential," said Mike Meadows, Director, Corporate Engagement and Membership of Imagine Canada. "Companies, employees and charities themselves should explore new ways of communicating these opportunities."
The most common recipients of community investment dollars are civic and community organizations - 77 per cent of the companies contributed funds to organizations in this area. Two-thirds of the responding companies contributed to healthcare organizations.
About the Canadian Corporate Community Investment Benchmarking Report
The national survey of community investment professionals, the survey took a broad approach to community investment (including corporate support of community initiatives and company employees' contributions).
The survey was developed with input from a steering committee of community investment professionals employed by some of Canada's largest companies. In addition, The Conference Board of Canada worked with two not-for-profit sector leaders, Volunteer Canada and Imagine Canada.
The 180 responding firms respondents employ almost 1 million people, about six per cent of the Canadian workforce. The majority of responses were provided by large companies (with an employee base over 500).
Top Corporate Community Investment Activities 2011
Focus of Employee Matching Programs in 2011
View video commentary by Paul Forgues, Senior Manager, Executive Networks
SOURCE Conference Board of Canada
Video with caption: "Video : Corporate Community Investment Survey ". Video available at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i1PYhUkuP-I&feature=youtu.be
Image with caption: "Top Corporate Community Investment Activities 2011. (CNW Group/Conference Board of Canada)". Image available at: http://photos.newswire.ca/images/download/20130402_C9844_PHOTO_EN_25007.jpg
Image with caption: "Focus of Employee Matching Programs 2011. (CNW Group/Conference Board of Canada)". Image available at: http://photos.newswire.ca/images/download/20130402_C9844_PHOTO_EN_25006.jpg