Research just published by Philanthropy Ireland shows that 80% of companies surveyed in Ireland are engaging in philanthropy, with Multinationals having the highest rate of engagement at 94%, followed by large Domestic Companies at 88% and SMEs at 70%. There is wide variation in relation to the causes supported but the most popular are Health (38%), Poverty (34%), Young People (34%) and Children (33%). Interestingly, this engagement is not something new – 80% of companies claim to have been giving for more than eight years.

Cash donations are by far the most popular way in which companies contribute to good causes, with an average of 62% of companies giving in this way. SMEs (75%) are most likely to donate cash as they do not have the resources to contribute volunteer hours and in kind donations may not be appropriate for them. In contrast Multinationals and large Domestic Companies are much more likely to give in other ways such as volunteering employee time or product.

The position of the person who selects which cause to support varies. Not surprisingly, the most common selector is the CEO at 49% of companies particularly in SME’s with 62% of CEOs making the decision there. In larger companies employees tend to play a bigger role, for example in large multinationals only 16% of CEOs make the decision who to support.

A core benefit of corporate philanthropy for multinationals and larger companies is empowering their employees by giving them the responsibility for selecting the cause that the company will ultimately support. This creates “buy in” from the employees and it was found that 53% of companies use this method of selection.

Indeed a high proportion of companies (42%) aim to align their philanthropic activity with the company’s overall business goals and objectives. The importance of tying in philanthropic activity with business objectives varies across business categories. Large Domestic Companies (67%) are most likely to strive to make this link between their philanthropic activity and their overall business objectives. Multinationals and SMEs are less likely to seek this link, with 37% and 23% respectively, looking to achieve this relationship.

Over half of the companies measure the success of their philanthropy (53%) and each use different methods to do this. The most popular measurement of success for companies is the feedback that they receive from the cause supported (36%). Other commonly used methods of measurement are Employee Morale (18%), Money Raised (17%), and PR Gained (15%).  Companies report that corporate philanthropy leads to improvement in the strength of a company’s culture, employee morale, generates positive PR and improves the perception of the company among customers and the local community.

There are also challenges for companies who give. The main challenges that companies face when engaging with corporate philanthropy are funding and time constraints. Not surprisingly, funding is the biggest issue faced by companies with 39% citing it as a challenge. Funding constraints is of particular significance for SMEs at 44%. Time constraints are the next challenge for companies at 17%.

Responding to the Research Danny McCoy CEO of IBEC said: “Irish business not only provides jobs, but is also a major supporter of community work and social projects, including the arts and sport. Business can help, not only with time and money, but also with expertise, and in doing so help forge a better Ireland. The private sector is already making a significant contribution and this should increase further as the economy improves. I would encourage all our members to get involved.”

Commenting on the results, Seamus Mulconry Executive Director of Philanthropy Ireland said that “ Irish companies, even in these difficult times, are doing their bit to support good causes and in doing so are making a positive difference both to the community and to their own business. Much business giving in Ireland is still driven by pure emotion, that is not a bad thing but it might be that business giving would have a longer term impact if companies treated giving as an investment decision and measured its impact not only for the company but for the cause. However, that said, it is heartening to see so many companies actively engaged in supporting good causes throughout Ireland and contributing to making a difference.”

Click HERE to view a copy of the report.