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Giving back: corporations continue altruism despite lean times.

What's the state of corporate philanthropy in Arkansas?

A group of corporations studied by the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation of Little Rock contributed more than $1.8 million to fund almost 700 Arkansas projects in 1989.

Arkla Inc., which did not channel its funds through a separate foundation, led corporate givers with $500,000 in contributions. The money benefited 200 projects.

However, needs continue to outweigh the availability of funds, particularly in rural Arkansas, according to Deborah Buford, executive director of Nonprofit Resources Inc. at Little Rock.

At a time when consumers are interested in a company's reputation, some corporations have established non-profit foundations. Even companies that haven't set up separate foundations have focused their giving programs and integrated them into their business plans.

Large companies sometimes employ full-time staff members to review contribution requests.

The Levi Strauss Foundation, which ranked second among corporate contributors in the Rockefeller Foundation study, targets communities in which Levi Strauss & Co. has production facilities.

The foundation has a reputation for making what many consider to be risky investments.

"Risky is when you invest in grassroots, community-based organizations that are working on social issues," Buford says. "Corporations prefer safe investments such as education, scholarships, the symphony, the |Arkansas~ Arts Center."

"The focus of our social investments is the communities in which we have a presence," says Herman Davenport, regional manager of community affairs for the Levi Strauss Foundation.

According to the Rockefeller Foundation study, the Levi Strauss Foundation contributed about $331,000 to 197 programs in 1989. Davenport estimates the foundation contributed $500,000 in Arkansas last year.

2.5 Percent

The parent company allocates 2.5 percent of its pretax profits to subsidize the foundation.

Levi's was No. 5 on Fortune's most recent list of America's most admired corporations. It has four facilities in Arkansas.

Corporations named to the Fortune list were judged by the quality of management; quality of products or services; innovativeness; long-term investment value; financial soundness; ability to attract, develop and keep talented people; community and environmental responsibility; and use of corporate assets.

"Our philanthropic programs tend to target low-end communities with an emphasis on women, minorities and youth," Davenport says. "Women, minorities and teens have fewer economic options than the mainstream."

Davenport believes the foundation's focus on non-traditional grant recipients such as women's shelters and youth centers influences other nonprofit organizations.

Buford and Davenport say they don't believe the recession has had a dramatic effect on the amount of money raised by non-profit organizations. The study was conducted by the Rockefeller Foundation prior to the recession.

"It's easy for corporations to say 'business is bad,' but there is a lot of work being done to encourage corporations to continue their contributions," Buford says.
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Title Annotation:corporate charities
Author:Fleisch, Shelley
Publication:Arkansas Business
Date:Jun 29, 1992
Words:452
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