Trends Worth Tracking: Charitable Giving, Business Edition


Trends Worth Tracking: Charitable Giving, Business Edition

Tara Lyons

Digitas, The Connected Marketing Agency, is dedicated to uncovering trends worth tracking on industry topics like car buying, cord cutting, and more under its intelligence hub, Vera.


Gone are the days when a company could build and sell a product alone, capitalizing on sheer consumer necessity or desire. It is imperative now that companies build a brand image that effectively communicates a platform as the foundation for both product and purpose. The importance of brand image has risen in parallel with the growth of philanthropy and social entrepreneurship, values which have become embedded within consumer and business culture. Brands now serve as a part of society’s social conscience, with 78% of Americans reporting a desire for them to address social justice issues. 


Financial donations

  • Corporate donation is widely supported, with 65% of Fortune 500 companies offering a matching gift program. An estimated $2-$3 billion dollars is donated through matching gift programs, according to
  • 12% of total corporate cash contributions to nonprofits are made through matching gift programs. Corporations have donated a total of $23.8 billion to nonprofits in 2018.
  • Search term interest for ‘matching gift’ increased by +122% WoW (11/18 - 11/24/2018 vs. 11/25 - 12/1/2018) according to Google Trends, demonstrating an uptick in giving during the Holiday season. 

Donations of goods

  • Following a similar trend of Holiday giving, search term interest for ‘clothes donation’ and ‘blanket donation’ increased +72% WoW during the early weeks of November (11/4 -11/10/2018 vs. 11/11 - 11/17/2018) 
  • In 2016 the value of donated goods totaled $79.5 billion, which represents 34% of all charitable contribution, a +62% increase from 2014 to 2016 according to
  • Some top items needed at shelters are clothes, personal care items, socks, and blankets, based on Recycle Nation.

How companies are giving back

  • Corporations also give back through donations of goods, often giving surplus items to organizations in need.
  • Programs like Pret a Manger’s “Waste Not, Want Not” program donates each day’s leftover food, and companies like Crayola, Avery, Papermate, and Office Depot all donate to Naeir, a non-profit that collects products for underfunded teachers, shelters, and churches.
  • In 2018, the above brands donated an estimated $99.6M (wholesale value) of inventory, +20% vs the year prior.

One-for-one giving

  • Frequently dubbed as the “TOMS model”, ‘Buy-one-give-one’ is on the rise, with more than 40 brands following this model, most notably Bombas and Warby Parker.
  • With new companies adopting this model and striving for more social impact, search interest in ‘Buy one give one’’ increased 26% YoY, based on Google trends.
  • This business model has been met with both criticism and praise, with critics concerned about both sustainability and what this giving model does for local businesses within the underserved areas where products are donated.
  • Both valued at over $600 Million, Toms and Warby Parker are helping to pave the way for new entrants through innovative giving, making social change while keeping up with consumer demand.



The rise of volunteerism, monetary donations, and one-for-one giving model is nothing new, but it does continue to rise, with added pressure from consumers and employees alike. According to Forbes, nearly 73% of US millennial consumers are willing to spend more on a brand that actively support social causes. This idea also helps companies continue to make an impact through pricing models that allow for charitable giving without cutting into margins.


88% of millennial employees report that they value companies that make a positive impact on their social environment. Companies that offer time off for volunteering and/or donation matching to support a cause help with retention too. Companies now need to be good corporate citizens in order to be competitive -- 60% of millennial employees report both initially choosing and staying at companies that have programs focused on a sense of purpose. According to “Project ROI”, a study by IO Sustainability and Babson College, corporate responsibility can lead to increased market value of 4-6%, increase revenue by up to 20%, and reduce company staff turnover by up to 50%. The resulting benefits from charitable donations are immensely valuable for both the Company and the recipient.


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