The Future of Corporate Philanthropy: Part 2

This is the second half of a two-part article on corporate philanthropy. The first article discussed the evolution of corporate philanthropy. In this article, we provide a framework for structuring corporate philanthropy and an overview of the Aon Foundation.

There is no question that corporate philanthropy is important. It’s important to grant recipients, but also matters for branding, for talent retention, and for key metrics — such as corporate social responsibility (CSR) and environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria — by which stakeholders evaluate companies. Given all that is at stake, it is imperative to be intentional and strategic in creating a well-structured program. 

Consider this framework1 for evaluating your organization’s philanthropic program:

  • Investments: How extensively and strategically are resources applied to philanthropy?
  • Integration: To what extent are programs aligned with the overall business?
  • Institutionalization: To what extent do policies, systems, and incentives support adoption and usage?
  • Impact: What is the social value created by the program?

The following chart provides examples of each component described above.

The Aon Foundation was established in 1987 as the principal vehicle for philanthropic programs in the United States. (Aon also has charitable foundations in other countries around the world.) Over the past few years, Beth Gallagher, who oversees giving programs at Aon has helped reframe how Aon approaches our community investment strategy.  Recognizing the benefits of adopting a more focused approach that is informed by Aon’s core business insights, Beth and her team have worked to become more intentional about the number and types of partnerships in the Aon Foundation portfolio.  Aon Foundation’s grant-making focus is threefold: 1) “de-risking” communities; 2) promoting educational access and attainment for underserved communities; and 3) investing in Aon’s future workforce via higher education programs in risk and actuarial studies.

on looks at our giving programs through both a “community investment portfolio” lens and a “colleague engagement portfolio” lens. The two charts below exemplify this.

Because community investment matters to certain key metrics (for instance ESG, CSR, and employee engagement), corporate giving practitioners should not shy away from pushing for change in their companies’ philanthropic programs, especially if programs lack focus, strong processes, or alignment with the business.  Here is a short list of questions to ask regarding your program.

  • Is there clarity on the focus of the philanthropy?
  • Does the program align with the vision and vision of the organization?
  • Is impact measured?
  • Has the program been integrated throughout the business (e.g., awareness by marketing and sales, engagement with employees)?
  • Do your key stakeholders understand what you care about, how you invest and what impact you have in the world?
  • Is there a strong governance process overseeing the philanthropic programs?
  • Is there support by senior leadership?

In order for corporate philanthropy to create meaningful social impact in the world while delivering brand and talent value for the business, it is imperative that practitioners stay abreast of the external context in which we operate and understand how we can most effectively bring the full suite of our businesses’ unique resources to bear. When corporate giving is strategic, it can be a powerful tool to elevate the brand and create reputational value, attract, retain and develop diverse talent, and help drive social impact that strengthens our communities and makes the world a better place.

At Aon, we’re excited about the opportunities ahead for corporate philanthropy and community investment programs and are proud to share this journey with you.


[1] Framework adapted from Points of Light Civic 50 Survey www.pointsoflight.org

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