914INC: “Westchester Corporations’ Charitable Involvement”

Rebecca Tekula, PhD, and Anna-Kay Sinclair of The Wilson Center for Social Entrepreneurship at Pace University are interviewed about corporate philanthropy in Westchester—who gives and what they get in return.

Hundreds of companies make a conscious effort to support worthy causes in the county. But what do the companies—and their stockholders—get out of the deal, wondered reporter Dave Donelson in an article appearing in Westchester business lifestyle magazine 914Inc.

It’s not an idle question. Corporate philanthropy is big business in Westchester and it’s growing more important as nonprofit providers of essential social services face budget cuts from state, county, and municipal governments and declines in giving by private individuals.

How big?

According to Anna-Kay Sinclair of The Wilson Center for Social Entrepreneurship at Pace University, there were 971 registered private foundations with assets of over $2.8 billion in the county in 2010. That year, six Westchester-based corporate foundations made up 20 percent of total private foundation revenue—more than $78 million of the $391 million total for the county. The major half-dozen were foundations funded by PepsiCo, Pepsi Bottling Group, IBM, Dannon, Heineken, and MBIA based in Armonk.  

Potential sales growth helps explain what The Wilson Center’s executive director, Rebecca Tekula, PhD, observes: “What I see is less idiosyncratic donations based on the personal interests of the corporate leaders and more social responsibility related to the core business.”

In other words, donations are made not because the CEO likes the opera, but because companies believe it helps build the bottom line.