Can we just call a spade a spade and say this practice is a little two-faced? It’s one thing to be a corporate foundation that gives to causes of merit all around the country and world. It’s another to say, "Well, we want the cred of having a corporate foundation, but we want the money to only benefit our employees, or communities where we have corporate offices." I mean, philanthropy is philanthropy, and it’s prudent in a lot of ways to keep your giving close to home. But what about the rest of us who aren’t fortunate enough to live near a TJ Maxx?
You think I’m kidding, but that’s the first candidate on our list. The TJX Foundation. They give a variety of mental health and public health grants, including grants in the related areas of domestic violence prevention and homelessness prevention, but in order to be eligible, you have to be located in a community where there’s a TJ Maxx, a HomeGoods, or a Marshall’s. Increasingly, that’s most of the country, so maybe they aren’t as tight as some of the others. But still.
The General Mills Foundation is a little bit more restricted, especially in their Hunger and Nutrition Wellness Program. They give the bulk of their money to organizations in and around the Twin Cities of Minnesota, and also dispense a bit to each of the 50 other communities around the country where they have corporate facilities, but that’s it. If you aren’t in Minnesota, or near another plant, tough luck.
The Odyssey Re Foundation is smaller than the other two, which could explain is stinginess: It gives almost exclusively to initiatives based near its corporate headquarters of Stamford, CT. That includes some good organizations, like AmeriCares, but still. Where’s the love?
Of course, not having the staff to review a billion grant applications from all over the country could be one very practical reason that foundations like to keep their geographic focus tight. Another, especially sensible in the realm of health grantmaking, could be that putting up money for healthy communities benefits the corporate bottom line. Think about it: When corporations improve the local community, they end up with better off workers and consumers, which helps business.
While it’s true that art programs and environmental grantmaking probably don’t translate into financial gains for the company, and so are purely altruistic, in health, there’s always a chance a foundation is looking out for itself first, even as it opens new food banks and clinics.