Design for Giving

Each summer, disadvantaged kids from Hartford have an opportunity to escape the tension, poverty, drugs and crime of their neighborhoods and spend seven weeks in a bucolic setting in Farmington. More than 1,000 kids, ages 5-12, are bused each day to enjoy swimming, baseball and all the typical camp recreation activities. Beyond the fun, the youngsters receive a range of counseling and health care services and the opportunity for educational enrichment in computer skills and language development.

Camp Courant was started by The Hartford Courant in 1894. It is one of many positive contributions to the community made by the Courant and other corporations in Connecticut.

While corporate downsizing and restructuring have captured most of the headlines, companies have quietly increased their philanthropic activities. Corporations gave $7.4 billion to charity in 1995 (up 7.5 percent from 1994), the highest total in 11 years and a continuation of an upward trend that began in 1991. And Connecticut corporations are more generous than the average, giving about 3.2 percent of all grants awarded by corporations in 1994, ranking 11th in the nation.

Corporations support a wide range of causes, including education, the arts, health care and community development. Why do they give money away? Most believe in being good neighbors and giving something back to their communities. Though some giving is purely philanthropic, like giving to the arts, other donations are designed to help the company’s bottom line. Corporations directly benefit from projects that give them high visibility, foster a positive image and promote local economic development. Companies investing in areas like education believe they will benefit in the future by creating a better educated pool of workers.

The Hartford Courant believes that philanthropy makes good business sense, says Community Affairs Manager Mildred Torres-Soto. “The community supports you if you support it. If you respect them, they respect you. By giving, you help stabilize the community so they can afford your product.”

Supporting the Workers of Tomorrow

How do companies decide which of many worthwhile causes to support?

Often the decision is related to the company’s interests. GTE, for example, is one of the world’s largest telecommunications companies and its giving is largely related to helping people use technology more effectively. One of the programs it sponsors in Connecticut is the “TOPS” (Teaching Opportunities for Paraprofessionals) program at Sacred heart University in Fairfield. This program assists minority students by providing teacher training programs for qualified paraprofessionals from inner city schools. “Ten students have graduated from the program, providing well-trained educators to swell the ranks of effective role models for inner-city youth,” University President Dr. Anthony Cernea wrote in a letter to the GTE Foundation. “GTE’s support is a source of encouragement for all of us at the University as we strive to fulfill our mission of making quality value-based education a reality for the underserved minority community.” How does it affect GTE’s bottom line? In the long run, Director of Corporate Responsibility Maureen Gorman says, the programs will create the technical talent needed to maintain U.S. economic leadership.

The Travelers Foundation saw a more immediate need to prepare students for jobs in finance right out of high school and became a sponsor of a four-year program called the Academy of Finance. The program is in its second year at Weaver High School and already has developed a level of prestige. The participants get opportunities other kids don’t, such as field trips to companies, lectures from business executives, access to a state-of-the-art computer lab. In addition, the summer after their junior year, the students will all receive paid internships. Travelers has already committed to provide some of these jobs.

Travelers Foundation Spokesman Keith Anderson says the program has been a “magnificent success” nationally because students are choosing to go on to higher education instead of going to work immediately. “Our goal is for them to go on to at least two years of college,” says Karen Finder, Coordinator of Career Readiness for Hartford Public Schools. “We give them the qualifications for college and a minimum of work-readiness skills to enter the job market if they choose to work.”

Champion is another corporation investing heavily in education. Jim Hoffman, a consultant to the company who directs the Middle School Partnership in Stamford, says middle schools have historically been neglected and a Carnegie study on preparing students for the 21st Century emphatically reported that the learning needs of 10-14 year-olds were not being met. “We could save millions of kids by developing a better match of education and needs,” Hoffman insists.

Champion provides consultants, travel expenses, housing and conference sites to promote staff development. Phase I of the program involves introducing staff, teachers, union representatives and other interested groups to the Carnegie Report and holding development sessions on subjects like Characteristics of Early Adolescence. The objective of is to develop a common understanding of current professional thinking in middle level education. The second phase involves the selection of six to eight teachers to serve with their administrators on the Champion Leadership Team, which develops the school’s growth plan. The team also produces a yearly assessment of the school’s accomplishments. Stamford’s program is the first of the partnerships to reach the third “alumni” phase. The four Stamford schools developed in-service plans for staff development that included critical thinking and process writing, team building and multiple intelligences as their projects. Teachers were also appointed to seek out state-of-the-art teaching practices for use in their schools and will be making presentations at conferences on topics such as peer mediation, developing in-service programs and teaching math in a heterogenous setting.

The idea is to mold the school to fit the child rather than the reverse. The program’s success, Hoffman says, is reflected by improved teacher morale and motivation, increased parent involvement in the schools, better attendance, greater student involvement in after-school activities, a decline in discipline problems. In some cases, he adds, test scores are up.

Many corporations also contribute to education through mentoring programs. Some of the companies with such programs include Olin, Union Carbide and GE. Olin’s award-winning TEAM UP program, for example, involves more than 100 employees coaching at-risk 9th graders for an hour each week. They provide guidance, supervision, career counseling, and motivation to stay in school. As an additional incentive, Olin offers scholarships to Norwalk Community Technical College to participants who stay in high school. “We teach them that if you stay in school, you can achieve a dream you might not have imagined,” says Manager of Corporate Contributions Carmella Piacentini.

A major statewide education initiative is the effort to connect all Connecticut schools and libraries to the Internet by the year 2000. Pitney Bowes CEO Mike Critelli is the corporate chair of the project and the company has donated $25,000 to underwrite wiring of a dozen schools, as well as contributing employees who have assisted with the work. UTC was the Hartford sponsor of the program and was involved in providing money and volunteers to wire 34 public schools and nine libraries.

Another common approach to corporate giving is through matching gifts programs, which provide funds to worthy charities and also encourage participation by employees. The Xerox Foundation, for example, will match employee gifts to four-year educational institutions ranging from $25 to a maximum of $1,000 on a one-to-one basis. GTE has a similar program for employees who are alumni of Connecticut schools, with the company matching their contributions two to one up to $7,500.

Corporations have typically eschewed long-term commitments to programs and, instead, given one-time grants for projects. This is beginning to change, however, especially in education. “Corporate philanthropy has made a major difference in education,” Finder concludes. “It is becoming easier to get support as companies recognize that one-shot efforts don’t have the impact they’d like to see. Creating prosperity is a slower, more intense process.” The ongoing commitment to a project is better for students, who know they won’t be abandoned, better for companies that can become identified with the program and better for corporate volunteers who get a greater sense of accomplishment.

Promoting Arts & Culture

While supporting the workers of tomorrow is one goal shared by many corporations, providing funds to promote arts and culture remains a priority for others. Travelers’ Keith Anderson said he was listening to Connecticut Public Radio one morning and heard how the State’s budget crisis was affecting music and arts programs. “We know music and arts do more than expand horizons; they affect math and logic skills,” he said. “We asked how we could help and discovered that half of the instruments in Hartford schools were ten years old and many were unrepairable. We gave $150,000 for new instruments and funded partnerships with The Bushnell for professional musicians to teach after school.”

GTE is involved in a program that brings opera into the schools and students into the theater. Larry Gilgore, General Director and Principal Conductor of the Connecticut Grand Opera and Orchestra says that public schools have increasingly been outsourcing arts education and, consequently, performing arts professionals have felt more responsibility to play a role in the schools. Gilgore now works with schools and teachers to develop a curriculum. Already, the entire 9th grade in Stamford’s two high schools has signed up to participate in the opera program and Gilgore expects 1,500-1,600 students to attend the culmination of the program, a GTE-sponsored performance of Rossini’s Barber of Seville.

It’s not easy for theaters and museums to compete for money with groups soliciting funds for things like vaccinating kids, says John Boyer, Executive Director of the Mark Twain House, but he has been successful in communicating the value of the museum to the community. ITT Hartford President and CEO Ramani Ayre is a trustee and was honorary chair of the holiday gala to benefit the Mark Twain House. Nearly 200 people attended the Nov. 16 dinner and auction, which raised more than $77,000. ITT pays for food, service, invitations and provides space in its building, according to Boyer. “ITT believes the success of the Twain House will help the city in tourism and economic development.”

Another member of the Twain House board is United Technologies CEO George David. He is the prototype of what nonprofit organizations look for when recruiting for their boards. Boyer says David is the head of the museum’s corporate committee and not only makes a personal contribution, but also insures the company supports the museum and recruits other business people for the board.

Economic and Community Development

Self-interest is also a motivation for giving. The profitability of banks, for example, is dependent on the health of the community, so People’s Bank believes it is important to assist the communities where its customers live and work. Bank President David Carson acknowledged that New England banks have gone through a tough period, but he says People’s has probably doubled its contributions since 1992 and now donates about $1 million for housing and community development projects, education and the arts. “The image of a financial institution to customers and potential customers is a key to its success,” says Carson. “That image is affected by the knowledge of what the bank does — and every community sees People’s contributing.” As an example, Carson noted that People’s is opening branches in two supermarkets a month and every one of these makes a contribution to local food banks.

The Bank of Boston also donates about $700,000 toward community development, public education, social services and the arts. Bruce Wilson, Executive Vice President for External Affairs, says the bank is particularly interested in forging partnerships. For example, a Business Information Center was created to be a one-stop shop for small businesses and entrepreneurs with support from the Bank, Aetna, the City of Hartford, the Small Business Administration and Southern New England Telephone. “We’ve made a $30,000 commitment for the next three years and people from the bank will participate in economic education at the center. It’s in the bank’s interest for business to develop and flourish,” Wilson explained.

A good example of a company that is helping to literally clean up its neighborhood is Pitney Bowes, which focuses much of its giving in its home base in the south end of Stamford, a lower income neighborhood that has struggled with crime and poverty. Pitney Bowes has sponsored volunteer projects to clean up the neighborhood. More than 200 volunteers installed trash receptacles, refurbished playgrounds, planted gardens and cleaned up graffiti. Pitney Bowes also underwrote the renovation of homes in the neighborhood. The company is planning another cleanup that will also focus on safety and provide information regarding bicycle, home, driving, and fire safety tips. The company will also install smoke detectors and subsidize the purchase of fire extinguishers and bike helmets. The biggest visible contribution is an 88,000 square foot building. The company is working with the community to decide on the best use for the building, with current suggestions including making it into a day care facility, using it for housing or health care.

Aetna has typified the difficulties of many corporations in the current business climate. Despite the company’s setbacks, Aetna has kept its corporate contributions stable — at around $10 million nationwide. Since the company has been based in Hartford for 143 years, it feels a particular obligation to the local community and donated $3.5 million last year for a variety of initiatives. longstanding commitment has been to see that children are immunized. In 1993, Aetna donated $850,000 to the Hartford Health Department to create a registry so that every child would be registered at birth and records could be kept for immunization. This has allowed the Department to follow-up with parents to insure their children receive the vaccinations they need. When the program started, less than 50 percent of the kids received their vaccines on time. By the end of 1995, the figure had risen to 77 percent, according to Aetna Foundation Executive Director Marilda Gandara Alfonso. In fact, the program was so successful, the Hartford Health Department convinced the State to create a similar registry statewide.

Challenges for the United Way

The one philanthropy that receives money from just about every major corporation is the United Way. Willie Edlow, President and CEO of the United Way of Eastern Fairfield County says corporate support has been increasing, but notes that competition for corporate dollars is increasing. “Corporations are in a competitive environment, they’re inundated by nonprofits, which are getting better at writing proposals.” One trend Edlow has noticed is that corporations are increasingly interested in supporting particular issues or projects rather than just giving money to support the general campaign. GE, for example, gave $50,000 for a neighborhood development project. “We don’t do well asking for general funds. We need to do our homework and mold products the corporations are attracted to, such as collaborations between the public, private and nonprofit sectors.”

Corporations increasingly want to see an evaluation of the impact of an agency or program. The United Way finds itself having to justify funding old organizations that corporations sometimes think should have already solved problems and gone out of business.

George Bahamonte, President of the United Way of the Capital Area agrees with Edlow that it used to be enough to describe programs to corporations to get their support. Now you need to show quantifiable results, so, for example, he will make the case that Big Brothers/Big Sisters has an affect on kids because they skip school half as much as the general population, their grades improve and they are less inclined to use drugs or alcohol.

A Culture of Giving

For many companies, giving has become a part of the corporate culture. United Technologies CEO George David, for example, encourages company executives to sit on nonprofit boards and volunteer. As Leah Bailey, Manager of Community Involvement, put it, “employees from the mailroom to the boardroom feel a strong obligation to the community.” That feeling is reflected by the fact that 94 percent of the employees in the UTC headquarters are involved in volunteer work. More than 10 percent participate in Study Buddies, a program in which employees in the Hartford headquarters tutor fifth and sixth graders once a week in their offices.

The importance of volunteer work is made clear from day one at People’s Bank. “Voluntarism is part of the culture of the bank; it’s something we explain in employee orientation,” says President David Carson, who estimates that 80 percent of his employees are involved in one or more charitable activities.

Bruce Wilson of the Bank of Boston says, “We don’t just write checks. We want employees to be involved as board members and volunteers.” As an example of the 1,100 employees who donate their time, he says, people who make loans at the bank may teach classes at the Business Information Center.

Corporate executives all emphasize that their commitment extends beyond cash contributions and the beneficiaries of these other types of contributions are grateful. “Phoenix is a good example of how corporations do more than just give money,” says the United Way’s Bahamonte. “In addition to a corporate contribution and an employee campaign, the company assigned a vice president to work full-time for a year as a senior manager of United Way,” assisting in the effort to get smaller businesses to become contributors.”

Xerox has a special program to provide this sort of assistance to charities. The Social Service Leave program allows employees to take fully-paid leaves of absence for as much as a year to work full-time on social action projects.

Can Corporations Do More?

How do corporations decide how much to give away?

The answer varies. Some have formulas based on pretax earnings, others have boards to determine the amounts. Generally, the budget for philanthropy is related to company performance, but officials from companies experiencing downturns say they try to at least keep their budgets stable. Alfonso said the chairman of Aetna, Ron Compton, has announced the company will give away more money as the company becomes more profitable. So, not surprisingly, the more companies make, the more they’ll be willing to share.

Of course, one Connecticut company goes further and gives all of its profits to charity. To those unfamiliar with the extraordinary story, Paul Newman used to put homemade salad dressing in old wine bottles and give them away as Christmas gifts. One day, he and longtime friend A.E. Hotchner decided to market the dressing. They began to sell the product locally and, within months, began getting requests from around the country. The business was such a success, Newman expanded the product line to include things like popcorn, lemonade and salsa. Since its founding, Newman’s Own food company has donated nearly $69 million to charity in what Newman calls “shameless exploitation in pursuit of the common good.” The money goes to fund more than 600 organizations, with the best known being the Hole in the Wall Gang Camps that Newman founded for children with life-threatening diseases. The eight-year-old camp in Ashford has served as an inspiration for four additional camps.

Obviously, Newman’s Own is exceptional. Most corporations cannot give away their profits. Still, it is fair to ask if other corporations do enough, or as much as they could to support the communities in which they operate. The companies, themselves, would admit more could and should be done. But, as the Mark Twain House’s Boyer says, “corporations don’t have to do anything. It gives you hope in mankind when they do something for the community.”