Charitable Giving      
The Most Charitable Companies
Liz Moyer, 2004

Philanthropy was on the rise last year, thanks to increases in earnings in 2003. Since most companies budget their charitable donations on the basis of the previous year's profits, that would seem to bode well for giving this year, too.

The Chronicle of Philanthropy, which conducts an annual survey of cash and product donations by large U.S. companies, says giving at 100 or so of the largest U.S. companies is expected to increase this year as it did by an average 5% last year. But there are lots of ways to look at giving.

Target (nyse: TGT - news - people ), the Minneapolis retailer, donated the most cash last year as a percentage of its 2003 earnings--$88.8 million, or 2.1%. Cash is perhaps the purest measure of corporate largesse.'s analysis took the top 100 companies; broke out their 2003 income before taxes, income and depreciation; and used data from the Chronicle to come up with the rankings.

In terms of giving cash as a percentage of income, Target was followed closely in the ranking of top contributors by a host of national retailing chains and consumer products companies putting up cash for charities. Those charities ranged from educational programs in local communities to support for environmental causes.

Top Ten Ranked By Cash As % Of 2003 Income America's Most Generous Corporations
Company  Ticker  '04 Cash Giving ($mil)           '04 Cash Giving                  % Of 2003 Income

Target  TGT  88.8  2.1%
Nationwide  NFS  15.8  1.3
Coca-Cola  COKE  67.2  1.2
Safeway  SWY  35.3  1.2
Best Buy  BBY  18.8  1.1
Bristol-Myers Squibb  BMY  64.4  1.1
Boeing  BA  43.7  1.1
Caterpillar  CAT  32.6  1
Wal-Mart Stores  WMT  197.7  1
Aetna  AET  17.5  1

In terms of the sheer size of cash donations, Wal-Mart Stores (nyse: WMT - news - people ), the nation's largest retailer, would be at the top of the list. The Arkansas company gave some $197 million last year in cash ($188 million of it in the U.S. alone). That puts Wal-Mart ahead of Bank of America (nyse: BAC - news - people ), Johnson & Johnson and Altria Group (nyse: MO - news - people ).

Then there are the companies that make most of their charitable donations in the form of products or services. Drug companies dominate this category, mostly because of product giveaways. Bristol-Myers Squibb (nyse: BMY - news - people ), Pfizer (nyse: PFE - news - people ) and Merck (nyse: MRK - news - people ) collectively gave away more than $2.6 billion worth of pharmaceuticals last year, according to The Chronicle of Philanthropy.

America's Most Generous Corporations

Company  Ticker  '04 Total Giving ($mil)  2003 Operating Income ($mil)  Giving % Income

Pfizer  PFE  1,259.7  13,671  21
Bristol-Myers Squibb  BMY  666.3  5,971  11
Merck  MRK  979  10,717  9
Safeway  SWY  135.3  2,905  4.7
Walt Disney  DIS  165.3  4,140  4
Johnson & Johnson  JNJ  528.7  13,302  4
Kroger  KR  95.4  3,587  2.6
Microsoft  MSFT  410.7  18,583  2.2
Target  TGT  88.8  4,257  2.1
Boeing  BA  68.5  4,063  1.7

In terms of total giving, Pfizer would rank No. 1, with more than $1.2 billion of cash and in-kind donations, or 21% of its 2003 earnings. That is the first time a company topped the $1 billion mark in the 11 years the Chronicle has been keeping track.

Merck and Bristol-Myers are close behind in terms of total giving as a percentage of profits. They gave away 9% and 11% of their profits, respectively, last year. In each case, more than 90% of the donations were in the form of drugs. Prices of drugs, of course, are difficult to evaluate, since the cost of production of a given dose is often far lower than the final cost in a pharmacy or doctor's office.

Retailers and consumer goods companies dominate the top ten list of corporate giving, perhaps not surprisingly. Philanthropy is a good way to build goodwill, and it also provides an outlet for employees who like to volunteer and organize giving on a local level. Many of the companies support national nonprofit groups as well, especially the United Way and the American Red Cross.

The top ten list ranks companies by their cash donations (as a percentage of their net income) separately from in-kind contributions and is based on statistics compiled by The Chronicle and Forbes.