Giving in Numbers, the annual survey by the Committee to Encourage Corporate Philanthropy (CECP), usually gives a good read on corporate giving trends based on the peer data it collects from more than 200 companies that are collectively responsible for an annual $23 billion in total community investments.

Benchmarking is central to the organization’s work, championing a movement that Paul Newman sparked more than 20 years ago, to engage corporate CEOs in making philanthropy a strategic priority for their companies.

The 2020 report captures information from 2019, so misses the upending consequences of both a global pandemic and a rising racial equity movement—and the swift and significant response from the corporate community. According to Candid, corporations across all sectors racked up $9 billion in giving—almost 65% of the $14 billion raised globally through all sources. And after a few false starts, many are taking genuine steps in their support for racial justice.

That aside, a number of trends underway prior to 2020 are worth tracking as we look at the big picture of corporate philanthropy and how companies tend to approach their giving. Here are the top five takeaways from the latest report, which looked at metrics ranging from cash giving to funding priorities:

  1. Spurred by the healthcare industry, overall giving continues to grow. The three-year upswing in overall total community investments reached 7%, fueled by the healthcare industry. Between 2017 and 2019, aggregate total investments by the sector grew by almost 60%, concentrated mostly across pharmaceuticals and healthcare facilities and services. Look for what CECP calls an “outsized role” by the sector in next year’s report, driven by COVID-19 vaccine and intervention measures, especially since product donations are included in these totals.
  2. Top cash giving by program area was consistent year-over-year, with top priorities being health and social services, community and economic development, and education. Health and social services giving topped $3.6 million in 2019, led by investments from the healthcare industry. At just over $2.6 million, community and economic development and environmental programs had the highest median cash increase due to investments from the consumer staples sector, which is increasingly adopting environmental, social and governance (ESG) standards in production processes. K-12 and higher education remained high at $2.3 million, driven in part by concerted efforts to arm the future workforce with STEM competencies.
  3. International giving is up—way up. As with last year, median international community investments far outpaced domestic. Matched-set data between 2017 and 2019 showed growth of 49%, from $3.4 million to $5.1 million, a full 20% above domestic percentages. As noted in Inside Philanthropy, underlying factors for the increase can be attributed to the embrace of a broader array of tactics as multinationals align their work with SDGs and increase their focus on global strategies and constituencies.
  4. Matching gifts are down, both in dollars and programming. Always a smart way to maximize individual giving, matching gifts actually trended down in the latest report. The overall median dollar value dropped 18% between 2017 and 2019, and the percentage of companies offering matching gifts programs fell from 92% to 89% year-over-year. CECP chalks that up to budget reductions and a possible decrease in communicating programs to employees. Policies supporting year-round matches also dropped three points, from 87% to 84%, while workplace giving campaigns declined 11 points, from 50% to 41%. Look for that to change next year, as corporations regularly made COVID-specific matches part of their response.

Companies are aligning giving with “corporate purpose.” This year, CECP introduced a new section on corporate purpose—a business’ core reason for being and its impact on the world—driven by an executive-level push to build awareness throughout their organizations. Those efforts are working. Seven out of 10 companies report that most or all of their employees can cite them easily. Since a full 73% of corporate foundations align giving with business purpose, nonprofits are wise to connect their missions with corporate purpose when applying for funding.