Giving by firms registers big jump

Companies donated more than $11 billion last year - up more than 14 percent over 1998

For some breakfast aficionados, there's nothing like the "All American Slam" at Denny's Restaurant: three eggs with cheddar cheese, toast with hash browns or grits, bacon....

There's another reason people eat there: For each breakfast ordered, participating Denny's will send 10 cents to Save the Children, a major social-service organization.

Denny's, headquartered in Spartanburg, S.C., "has been the largest corporate partner of Save the Children since 1994," says company spokeswoman Debbie Atkins. Since then, the restaurant chain has contributed more than $5 million to the charity.

This year, Denny's, with more than 1,800 restaurants in the US, expects to raise another $1 million.

Throughout the US, thousands of US companies donate millions of dollars annually in hard cash, services, and merchandise. In many cases, of course, companies take a tax deduction for their outlays. They also receive favorable press coverage. But the bottom line is simple: The companies involved help raise money, and charities get substantial additions to their balance sheets.

According to the AAFRC Trust for Philanthropy in Indianapolis, American corporate giving hit $11.02 billion in 1999 - about 1.3 percent of pretax income, a jump of 14.2 percent over the previous year.

Corporate giving should show a "steady growth pattern in the future," even if there is a substantial slowing of the economy in the next year or so, says Don DeBolt, president of the International Franchise Association (IFA).

Franchise operations alone provide billions of dollars in giving, he says. Business owners have learned that "good corporate citizenship polishes a good name," so companies have a vested stake in promoting philanthropic work, he says.

Sometimes the contributions involve donations of time and space rather than money. The Goddard School For Early Childhood Development, for example, a franchise of some 90 early-education schools in 13 states, serves as a collection center for the Toys for Tots campaign of the US Marine Corps. People donate toys to the schools, and the schools send them along to the Marine Corps, says Bill Silverman, a spokesman for the schools.

Meanwhile, fast-food chains such as Taco Bell, Wendy's, Blimpies, and McDonalds raise cash for a wide range of charitable projects including special homes for sick children, Boys and Girls Clubs, and adoption programs.

Some charitable efforts by companies are strictly service-oriented. For example, direct mailer ADVO Inc., based in Windsor, Conn., along with its mailing partners, distributes pictures of missing children on address labels to about 80 million homes each week. Because of the broad distribution, some 105 children have been recovered since 1984, says ADVO spokeswoman Tracy Capello.

Moreover, some nonprofits, listed as charities in their own right, give money to other good causes. Local YMCA branches, for example, raise money from their employees, with donations going to other charities, such as the United Way. Employees at YMCAs in New Jersey, for example, can specify the charitable organizations they want their United Way contributions to go to.

Charity officials often encourage consumers to patronize businesses that offer charity programs. Despite the potential economic benefits, many companies still do not participate in charitable efforts. That's where individuals can help. Some steps recommended by charity experts:

* Talk to a company executive or store manager and encourage him or her to undertake charitable work.

* If the business is a franchise, tell the manager to contact the IFA for support, at (202) 628-8000.

* With stand-alone businesses, have them contact the Better Business Bureau, or their local Chamber of Commerce, which may help them develop a charitable program.

* Be willing to volunteer your own time to help the business do charitable work. Perhaps it could be something as simple as posting signs in store windows, business lobbies, or by cash registers. Biggest corporate givers

Which of America's big corporations can be counted among the "most generous"?

The editors of Worth magazine last week surveyed the philanthropic practices of the nation's largest companies. The magazine's Top 50 list is excerpted below. See giving/generouscompanies for the complete list and explanatory notes.

Company Total value of 1999 giving, including cash and products

Merck $148,503,530

DuPont 122,159,885

Philip Morris 107,795,180

Wal-Mart 96,010,618

Bank of America 95,500,000

SBC Communications 94,321,081

Exxon Mobil 92,300,000

Eli Lilly 88,193,360

Johnson & Johnson 88,110,000

Ford Motor 83,908,134

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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