Helping Austin Companies Give 


Sign of the Times

In 1981 Austin Community Foundation hosted a seminar for local business leaders on a topic of growing interest: Corporate Citizenship. Ronald Reagan had just been elected president, pledging to cut $27 billion from social welfare programs during his first term. President Reagan called upon the business community to step in. To encourage them, the maximum allowable deduction for corporate giving was increased from 5% to 10%.

Five Percent Club

First to speak at the seminar was Bill Gerton, Dallas Regional Vice President for Target Stores. For 35 years Target’s parent company had been giving 5% of pre-tax profits to its communities, believing its success was because of, not despite, this 5% giving policy. They had led the creation of a “Five Percent Club” of 45 Minneapolis companies committed to giving that amount, and later a “Two Percent Club.” Other cities were following suit.

Gerton outlined the four factors of a successful corporate giving program:

  • Commitment “shared by all levels of management” and with “tremendous pride.”
  • Professionalism with “specific goals, objectives and appraisal review” and staffed by “philanthropic experts.”
  • Structure that makes giving “responsive, yet independent.”
  • Focus on communities with headquarters or major stores and on “areas in which we want to have impact: the arts and urban social action programs—especially those designed to remove barriers to people’s self-sufficiency.”

An Invitation

Next to speak was Arthur Temple, Jr., then Vice Chair of Time Inc. and Chairman of the Board of Temple Industries, of Lufkin, a noted philanthropist:

“I want to consider with you corporate giving as smart, profitable business management. ….You of course know that when a corporation gives $1,000 or $1 million dollars of pre-tax income, it only costs $500 or half a million. Business certainly should be able to give with more ingenuity, more efficiency and more accountability than government. …

Am I asking you here in Austin to turn the world around? Not at all. I’m only suggesting there are opportunities to step out in front, as you have done so many times before.”

Corporate Giving Today

Austin Community Foundation currently facilitates corporate giving for a number of local companies including AM Technical Solutions, Build-A-Sign, Matt’s El Rancho, National Instruments, NetSpend and others.

Nationally, corporate giving now hovers around 2% of pre-tax profits and makes up 5% of overall charitable giving.

--Robin Bradford