Opinion: Corporations should treat philanthropy dollars like business dollars. Here’s why.

Opinion: Corporations should treat philanthropy dollars like business dollars. Here’s why.

This piece was first published in DevEx on February 5, 2018

Super Bowl viewers got to see a 1-minute advertisement showing employees of Anheuser-Busch InBev sending cans of emergency drinking water to areas hit by natural disasters. We saw an inspiring story showcasing the best of the corporate world helping people. Visiting AB InBev’s website, we can easily find a page highlighting donations from their foundation tallying $573 million over 20 years. Given how the firm promotes its corporate philanthropy, a naive onlooker might think this is a central part of their business.  

However, a closer look at the financials reveals a different picture. Comparing the $43.6 billion dollars of 2015 corporate revenue to the $10 million dollars donated by the Anheuser-Busch Foundation in the same year, company philanthropy represents about 0.02 percent of revenue. That is, for every five cases of Budweiser you buy for $10 each, the company donates about a penny. It seems audacious that this level of philanthropic giving warrants being promoted in a 1-minute Super Bowl commercial, especially given that NBC reported that a 30-second slot cost more than $5 million.  

Anheuser-Busch InBev is not an outlier. For every $100 of business sales, United States companies made charitable donations of about a dime. It is ironic that when you visit corporate headquarters, you’ll usually walk through lobbies showcasing awards and recognition from recipients of those dimes. The dimes do add up to over $18 billion.

Read the full article in DevEx here.

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About the author:

Charles Bresler

Co-founder, Board Member

After earning a PhD in Social and Clinical Psychology, Charlie Bresler became director of behavioral medicine for The California School of Professional Psychology, Fresno (CSPP-F), where he was a full-time professor and founder of a teaching clinic for anxiety & stress disorders. In 1993, he was recruited by The Men’s Wearhouse, where he went on to be head of human resources, stores, marketing, and, ultimately, president. He stepped down in 2008 to fulfill his long-standing desire to work directly on social and economic issues, not too long after he read Peter Singer’s book, The Life You Can Save. Catalyzed by the concept, Charlie reached out to Peter and proposed combining Peter’s theory with the formation of a nonprofit to advance Peter’s ideas and to raise money for high-impact, cost-effective organizations. Together, they founded The Life You Can Save, where Charlie took on all organizational operations as executive director until 2024. He was supported in this work and in his financial support for the organization by his wife Diana, a family physician, and executed the role pro bono.

The views expressed in blog posts are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Peter Singer or The Life You Can Save.